Last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control officially recommended widespread use of face masks to help slow the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. These aren’t the medical-grade N95 facial respirator masks—which continue to be in short supply and should be reserved solely for health-care professionals on the frontlines of the pandemic battle—or the allergen-, pollutant-, and germ-filtering masks from Airnium ($69 to $99) that Gwyneth Paltrow wore on Instagram. The CDC is urging the general population to wear masks made of layers or breathable fabric (such as cotton) close to the face whenever in public and in other situations in which it may be difficult to practice social distancing.
The face mask has gone from curiosity to commonplace, virtually overnight. Still, the question remains: Where do you get one?
As the pandemic has grown, hardware store-style dust masks or basic surgical ones have joined the ranks of items that went from unexceptional to hard-to-find commodities (toilet paper, canned beans, dumbbells).
The masks that large fashion brands and luxury goods manufacturers—Prada, LVMH (owner of Louis Vuitton and Dior), Kering (owner of Balenciaga and Saint Laurent), and even Lamborghini—are sewing are reserved for the medical community and, so far, for European relief efforts. Ralph Lauren, New Balance, and smaller brands such as Christian Siriano, Eileen Fisher, and Brandon Maxwell are helping out stateside.
Some designers selling to consumers are turning the new necessity into a form of self-expression. It’s what the fashion industry does, by nature, and it can provide a much-needed revenue source for companies that have seen business dry up.
Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst covering retail at NPD Group, a market research firm, sees this as a time when masks could move from specialized product to mainstream accessory: “We will see this become a staple item, as well as fashion—even if to mark this as an era to remember.” Once hard to find, he predicts that masks will become staples at retail, coming in fashionable patterns, an array of colors, and even in personalized versions.
“No doubt, the rest of the fashion industry will cater for any demand from its client base to equip them,” says Nick Paget, senior menswear editor at trend forecasting firm WGSN. “In the future, wearing a mask might be as much about feeling reassured as much as responding to any imminent threat.”
While designers may begin adding masks to their lineups, it may be weeks or even months before supply chains and logistics allow for them to become a readily available part of daily life. A face mask in Chanel tweed? Or in Prada’s signature nylon? Or buttery Birkin leather, to match your Hermes carryall? We wouldn’t be surprised.
In the meantime, us at Portugal Textile decided to start developing those stylish kind of face mask, with good prices so everyone can be safe and not loose the sense of fashion. Keep on checking our page to aware of the launch of our face mask shop.