Designer Masks: Insensitive or a manifestation of art?

Yaashna Bhalekar   July 22, 2020

Creative way to adapt to changing times or simply being tone deaf?

In the midst of the global pandemic, wearing masks to keep oneself and one’s community safe has become mandatory and rightly so. These masks are a necessity and are made from simple material. Their appearance is very clinical and plain and not quite fashionable. The real question is that does it need to be fashionable in the first place?

There are a few different perspectives with which one can approach this topic. The fashion industry is still trying to find its place in the new updated version of our lifestyle that is widely virtual now. Many designers all around the world have started to come up with masks that are high fashion. This can be looked at as art imitating life and a way to boost the spirits of people who thrive on expressing themselves through fashion and make-up.

But is it a smart idea to put a label on an accessory that is essential in a health emergency? There are fashion houses and designers that are using this to jump on the “trend” and try to make up for the losses incurred. They have been slightly successful in making their customers also jump on this bandwagon. For instance, there are retailers who have incorporated the use of gold and other precious metals & stones into the masks, which is a real slap in the face to the problem of not having enough masks for the needy.

Designers like Marc Jacobs have come up with face coverings that are worth $100 USD, but 100% of the proceeds got to communities in need. In India, Sabyasachi Mukherjee has expressed his disdain towards the idea of masks becoming a fashion statement in an interview with Harpar’s Bazaar. He also mentioned that he doesn’t mind using his resources to produce simple masks that can be provided to the public but would never put his label on them.

In April, Designer Masaba Gupta developed a line of cotton masks. This can be seen as a socially proactive business decision. The masks produced and sold by her are made under sanitary conditions and have varied price points. But these, prices are still higher than the general Rs. 40 price for masks. For each mask it offers, the company would donate a mask to different charitable organizations and law enforcement officers.

Going back to the statement that this topic can be approached with many different perspectives. How do you perceive this?