How face masks became a fashion statement during the Coronavirus outbreak


From Asia’s everyday accessory to fashion runways, luxury designers such as Gucci and Louis Vitton have made a twist on the face mask.

Until recently a face mask was anything but a fashion statement. But with the Coronavirus outbreak luxury fashion designers have decided to “capitalize” on the current virus outbreak in the world and put their own luxury stamp of approval on face masks – transforming an everyday mundane object which protects you from a possible (Corona)virus infection or air pollution to a fashion statement.

Before 2003, a Hongkonger wearing a face mask in the street was a rarity. After the Sars outbreak, however, it became common practice in public spaces and even, somewhat comically, for drivers alone in their cars. Masks have become ingrained in our daily lives in subsequent years owing to H1N1 (swine flu), Middle East respiratory syndrome, annual flu seasons and, yes, pollution.

A simple search on the internet for the now-scarce surgical face masks opens up a complete rabbit hole of designer face masks and celebrity fashion statements. As only the fashion industry can do, it has infused medical supplies with absurdity and, argu­ably, beauty, creating a niche accessory category. But this so-called fashion statement comes at a hefty price tag. You know what they say you can’t put a price on fashion or was that said about health and happiness. Thanks to luxury fashion designers such as Gucci, you can now coordinate your face mask with your outfit. Coordinating your everyday outfit and face maks was or is surely on your mind during the outbreak of Coronavirus in Europe.

All the latest updates about the outbreak of Coronavirus in Europe here.

Throwback down the fashion runway

Chinese designers such as Masha Maand Yin Peng sent models down the runways wearing Haute face masks in 2014. That same year, Yoox collaborated with famous Chinese designers Qiu Hao, Xander Zhou and Sankuanz on a series of luxury face masks. The famous Norwegian DJ Alan Walker wears face masks during each and every set and in all his music videos. We’ve also seen masks as signature looks on rappers such as Future, 2 Chainz, Travis Scott, Ayo & Teo, and Young Thug. Among other stars who wore the designer face masks are also Miley Cyrus, members of Blackpink, and Katy Perry.

Ariana Grande sold face masks in tandem with new album releases in both 2014 and 2019. South Korean boy band BTS famously wore and continue to sell branded face masks. Bloggers have been bedazzling their surgical masks for fashion week.

in 2014 the label Marcelo Burlon County of Milan worked on a line with Respro. Designer Manish Arora collaborated with Vogmask in 2016 for the Indian market, another country facing significant air pollution. Swedish brand Airinum released a collaboration with Italy’s Nemen and Alan Walker, in 2019.

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Gucci controversy with face masks in 2018

Gucci’s autumn/winter 2018 runway show controversially presented black woolen masks with red lines around the lips and a similar balaclava jumper that was immediately slammed by the media and the public as being a reference to “blackface” and was quickly withdrawn from sale. Then, last month, singer Billie Eilish appeared at the Grammy Awards in fluore­scent green-and-black Gucci branded face mask.

Fashionable during the Coronavirus outbreak

Marine Serre collaborated with R-Pur for her spring/summer 2020 collection to create designer anti-pollution face masks. It’s a theme she explored last season, too. Talk about being ahead of the Coronavirus trend.

Fendi sells a silk face mask printed in its iconic logo. Note: their silk face masks were sold out immediately, so were the Louis Vitton face masks and since then they were removed from their website.

Virgil Abloh’s Off-White has been making branded cotton masks for a while, more as a street style than germ barrier. Labels such as Louis Vitton, Burberry, A Bathing Ape, Heron Preston, Maison Margiela, and Gareth Pugh have all riffed off the face mask.

It looks like the Coronavirus isn’t going away any time soon, and neither is the fashion trend of wearing designer face masks.

All the latest updates about the outbreak of Coronavirus in Europe here.