Among the unexpected rounds of 2020 is the mainstreaming of facial masks in the western part of the world. Manufacturing for medical and non-medical masks, or personal protective equipment (PPE), swept across the global industry starting in March when companies such as Prada, Mother Denim, Gucci, Citizens of Humanity and more stop regular production or shift their resources to produce a mask for COVID-19 first responders and the general public.
A series of conflicting studies and guidelines and fragmented reopening of states and cities in the US has led to debate about the effectiveness of PPE. For some people, wearing or not wearing face masks even signifies their political views. But when countries with initially low confirmed coronavirus cases begin to see the spread of infectious diseases, the latest statistics serve as a reminder that PPE is part of the “new normal.”
For some people, incorporating fashion and personal elements into PPE is one way to help overcome and humanize this new reality. “The average person understands that COVID-19 will be with us at least until the vaccine is developed and widely distributed, so we hope to see various facial masks in the next 12-18 months,” said Benjamin Ayer, founder of trend forecasting firm new fashion Benjamin Bellwether.
The search for non-medical face masks remains high, according to the Lyst global fashion search platform. Searches increased by 510 percent from the beginning of the year to the beginning of May. As an alternative to dealing with masks, page views for scarves also go up when seasonal demand for categories will usually be much lower.
“Given how quickly consumers adopt face masks because of their needs and how brands respond by offering face masks as a new product category, we really see this continuing to be a major item in collections for brands at all price points, ranging from fast fashion retailers to independent brands to a luxury designer, “Hallie Spradlin said, Rangefinder Mode, accessories director.
From sports and entertainment licensing opportunities, to masks that coordinate with signature prints or brand-patented color features (here see you, Tiffany & Co. and Christian Louboutin), masks have opened up new fields of creative branding opportunities for fashion. And for now, the entry to play is quite low.
Any company that makes tees can make masks, says Sharon Graubard, Mintmoda founder and creative director. The product, he said, is an easy extension of such brands Los Angeles clothes, which has shown versatility with 3 packs of comfortable cotton jersey masks. Meanwhile, bra manufacturers are well positioned because of their technical expertise and their experimental approach to fabric and construction, he said.
In the short term, Ayer said that almost all categories and markets are ready to operate a profitable face mask business. “This is a simple supply and demand, and customers are getting better by paying money for face masks that they can reuse,” Ayer said.
But the category is likely to be developed by companies who spend more time “measuring alpha for better compatibility,” developing styles for children and experimenting with constructs for smoother looks, he said.
And fashion brands must also take the time to find ways to hone their point of view in this category. While initial PPE shipments are made under urgency, consumers will expect PPE with a higher level of comfort, protection, and aesthetics – quality that guides the purchase of their other clothing.
“Brands must create products by considering their specific customers whether it is from the perspective of color or material,” said Spradlin. “Individuals still want to express themselves like they would with whatever choice they make in clothing or accessories, so [consider] trends such as bold colors, positive messages, or prints and patterns that reflect each brand’s target consumers. “
There is a very high possibility that face masks will become a new status symbol on the Internet luxury streetwear market.
Even before the pandemic, “elaborate face masks” were part of the street style that emerged in fashion weeks, Ayer noted, and influential Gen Zers like pop star Billie Eilish wore designer masks for famous events, such as custom-crystal. graced the version of the Gucci he wore on the 2020 Grammy.
Snoops Fashion is a mask tracker before the pandemic as a fashion item made by luxury streetwear brands such as Gucci and Marine Serre. Off-White has been selling it in collections for several seasons. Many more brands will begin to design collections that focus on these items, said Spradlin.
“We have begun to see trendy brands such as Collina Strada offering more face masks that focus on fashion, making it an artistic creation as an extension of their brand and new expression categories, and often more accessible,” he added.
Just like the luxury hybrid streetwear category that attaches to sneakers, belt bags and denim to attract the demographics of younger consumers, experts see face masks as another entry point for the item ‘This’. The novelty aspect of the PPE designer also makes it ripe for another trend borrowed from streetwear: desirable collaboration.
“OG street style consumers have had a mask in their fashion language for several years, and these brands are really influential in terms of where people’s incomes go,” Ayer said.
However, luxury brands must follow a thin line about price points.
“You can no longer justify charging a large amount of money for face masks – at least for now – so when you add additional marketing dollars and other costs for collaboration, you might not be marginalized at the end of the day,” Ayer said.
Instead, he said, we can see one brand partner with another to reduce excess fabric and call it collaboration in marketing, which can be a creative way to help each other. “We have seen several artists work with brands to decorate masks, but I think that is temporary or at least will be on a much smaller scale compared to the powerhouse brand competition,” he added.
Although brands may have to “save face” by selling masks at a reasonable price point, the resale market proves to be another story. From March to May, Glossy reported that StockX face mask sales increased 210 percent and the price of masks rose 282 percent.
White-and-White Mask featured the brand’s signature arrow design, which originally sold for $ 100, sold for $ 466 on a resale platform.
“With increasing demand as face masks becoming a necessity throughout the world, the most sought after style is now listed many times the original price on the resale platform. And when the main styles are harder to come by, it only makes them more desirable, “Lyst said.
When the cities reopened and people began to continue their work and social life, fortune tellers began to see how masks would play a role in their head-to-toe clothing. Some people coordinate masks with their ensembles, Graubard said, by pairing camouflage masks with camouflage jackets, or white hole lace masks worn with vintage dresses.
“I have also seen several different masks both on social media and on girls in the city center, making masks a fun and expressive component in dressing,” he said.
Women’s designers also develop masks that coordinate with the rest of their product lines. Alice & Olivia offers $ 10 cotton masks with Stace signature prints. Betsey Johnson packed a pink-and-black floral face mask with a matching headband. The famous Instagram brand, LoveShackFancy, is adapting its shabby chic aesthetics to a $ 20 mixed flower cover.
At the higher end, Prabal Gurung lifts a mask with a floral Jacquard fabric for $ 55. Erdem offers a $ 65 floral cotton poplin mask that complements the rest of the brand floral motifs. And KES is currently receiving advance orders for its Dreamer mask, a $ 55 silk cover that is tied with an extra-long silk ribbon that can be tied as a long scarf or into a large bow.
Like other accessories with functional roots that have since become a fashion statement, such as footwear and bags, Kelly Helfman, president of WWDMAGIC and Project Women, said she anticipates consumers who want a wardrobe full of PPE. In a webinar with Fashion Snoops, Helfman said consumers might want face coverings for casual occasions and others to go out at night.
There is also room for hand sanitizer accessories, he said. Helfman ponders the idea of developing a beautiful holder for mini hand sanitizers – something women can proudly clamp to their handbags. Adding fashion elements to the product, he noted, gives consumers a happy feeling that the pandemic has thinned from many aspects of daily life.
“Interestingly, many masks seem to be leaning towards the aesthetic of the weaving itself, perhaps because from the beginning there were all the self-made patterns available online, and many Etsy sellers offered the DIY version in gingham and rural floral patterns,” Graubard said.
“In cities, there is something about mask anonymity that is interesting – it’s almost like wearing sunglasses.”
However, not all consumers want to emphasize this protective accessory. Some consumers will prefer solid colors, or versatile styles that can be worn as scarves or impromptu masks.
Although street vendors sell masks in New York City, in the Graubard neighborhood of the East Village, many people choose to wear ordinary blue disposable masks or classic bandanas tied around the mouth and nose. “Both of them said, ‘I’m not trying too hard,'” his teacher.
“I think the big opportunity is a mask that will be built for clothing, like a turtleneck that pulls the nose and mouth, or a beanie with a panel that pulls down, or a hood with a panel,” Graubard said. “In cities, there is something about mask anonymity that is interesting – it’s almost like wearing sunglasses.”
The biggest winner, Ayer added, will be a brand that can make face masks look good and perform as well as an unpleasant version with filters and nose clips.
“The fabric masks are good, but they don’t offer a great amount of protection that is felt,” he said. “This perception of effectiveness versus aesthetics is where brands need to find value to be successful in this product category.”
Fast pivot manufacturers to PPE prove that the category can be any game brand. However, due to the need for a breathable and durable material for face masks, experts say one particular category might be superior.
“Mask production is a natural thing for clothing companies, many of which have already been made special mask for runners and other outdoor sports participants, “Graubard said. “I think the big opportunity is in a leaner and high-performance version, in antimicrobial or antiviral material that can breathe.”
Some brands have entered the space. Adidas sells 3 packs of reusable face masks made from recycled polyester. NB Face Mask v3 New Balance aims for comfort and compatibility featuring a lightweight 3-layer construction, a nose piece that can be formed and stretching ear loops. Outdoor Voices emphasizes the durability of washable masks made with fabrics approved by Bluesign.
These brands have an initial jump in performance fabrics, and if in numbers antimicrobial technology which has entered the supply chain since the pandemic shows nothing, it is the performance that is in the minds of designers and consumers.
“Material innovation is the key to face masks as a way to integrate protective elements and health benefits,” said Spradlin. “Some of the materials we have tracked include antimicrobial fabrics such as viscose and disinfectants derived from bamboo, as well as materials infused with probiotics for immune support.”
Reusable masks must also have “quick dry care” properties, Graubard said, adding that there is a need for fabrics that use moisture and cold cloth.
Wearing a mask has also led to a new pile of skin care, a.k.a. “maskne.” The heat and humidity covering the face stick, especially during the humid summer months, can cause breakouts and other skin irritations. The problem does not go away in colder months, because the mask can rub and irritate dry skin.
Trendalytics reports that during May searches for “maskne” rose 1,943 percent compared to the previous year when people sought solutions. As a result, Bakuchiol, a natural alternative to retinol, experienced high search volume and increased social buzz, while the search for niacinamide, known for its ability to reduce inflammation and redness, continued to increase.
While the general recommendation to prevent “maskne” is to wash your face and choose a dye-free cotton mask, Graubard points out that cosmetics companies have the opportunity to innovate here. “I can imagine fabrics that have moisturizers or other properties for the skin. “However, it is a piece of cloth on your skin, it might also have some cosmetic or health benefits,” he said.
Lifestyle brands with performance components can make a strong push into the PPE category as well. “Imagine if Lululemon or Rhone come out with facial masks that perform, have a layer that can breathe and technology built in, “said Ayer. “Or at Uniqlo, you can pick up Heattech leggings and Airism face masks during checkout.”
Finally, Ayer said PPE would be like whatever product categories the brand wanted to include in the variety – it must make sense for the brand to offer it.
The product category also fits in with another growing trend: upcycling. One of the trends Fashion Snoops has seen since the beginning of this pandemic outbreak, said Spradlin, is the brands that make face masks from the rest of the stock or the remaining ingredients from their own production.
This resourceful approach has been used by brands such as Reform, Mother Denim and Joe’s Jeans. This strategic mask production, he said, positioned any clothing company to have the opportunity to meet current demands by introducing this new product category without having to immediately invest in new resources while at the same time reducing waste.
A Chinese designer named Zhijun Wang, Graubard noted, had created functional pollution masks, all of which were upgraded from high-end shoes. “The techno design can inspire new directions in the mask, making it as interesting as the latest sneakers for streetwear,” he said.
“It would be great if we could continue to use face masks as a way to highlight sustainability and build it into a circular economic model,” Ayer said, adding that upcycled masks were one solution for clothing at the end of their life cycle.
“It would be nice to see brands using recycled fabrics or requesting old clothes from rental websites to return to the fashion cycle this way, where clothes can be cleaned and cut for fabric masks,” he said.
Face covering is another container for self-expression – maybe even a new statement tee, Graubard thought. In the current polarization climate in the U.S. – with people taking a loyal stance on social and political topics ranging from climate change and immigration, to police reform and weapons control, masks have the potential to convey a silent but strong message.
Ayer points out that facial masks will be part of a greater ‘protest culture’ influence on fashion – the same way he hopes to see more camouflage prints and aggressive footwear like Doc Martens on the runway in the coming season.
“People will use face masks as a symbol of how the government might have disappointed them, to show solidarity with health workers, or as a silent protest for this event that we all share,” he said.
Protesters in Black Lives Matter The demonstration has written poignant calls for action and statements about racism and police brutality on masks. The Black Lives Matter organization currently sells $ 15 masks with the phrases “justice” and “freedom” through its e-commerce store.
Ahead of the U.S. presidential election, masks have the potential to function as new campaign pins or red hats. The $ 20 mask that simply states “Biden” is among the babies and Pride dolls available for sale to the former Vice President, and the alleged Democratic challenger, Joe Biden’s official campaign website.
The same cannot be said for the official store for the Trump-Pence website, however, which may be a reflection of the establishment of the candidate’s attitude to the protective cover. Both politicians have rarely been seen wearing PPE since the beginning of the global pandemic.
Wearing a mask has been a reality in Asia for almost a decade. This is a habit, noted Spradlin, who is pushed out of public health needs rather than as a “trendy” item.
“The way face masks are a normal and accepted part of Eastern culture is something that I think brands should look at from the perspective of marketing and retailers for brand alignment,” he said.
When the shops opened, Ayer said he anticipated seeing masks at the cashiers and mannequins. He also expects U.S. consumers to wear masks during the flu season, establishing PPE as a seasonal staple for brands and retailers.
“I think many people are worried about the second wave of viruses in a few months,” he said. “If retailers have it in their store when the bricks and mortar are reopened, customers will take a partner during checkout without thinking about it.”
And if there is a lesson to be learned about how brands and consumers approach masks in China, it is a “matter of fact” that they use, Graubard said.
“These are daily hygiene choices that may develop globally,” he said. “Even after COVID-19 is controlled, people may protect themselves more and respect others more when wearing masks.”
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