FASHION: In 2020 Masks Aren't Just For Protection

Cowboy boots used to be Sebastian Marquardt's go-to fashion item. He'd wear them everywhere in his neighborhood of Hamburg, Germany. He liked that the black, pointy shoes -- more common in parts of the US -- stood out.

But these days, the 43-year-old has a different must-have accessory: A face mask.

Due to coronavirus concerns, some countries have made it mandatory for people to wear masks when they go out. Many, like Marquardt, have used the recommendation as a way to get creative. 

Marquardt currently has 10 different face mask styles to choose from -- one has pink unicorns, another says "Chill!" But his favorite is the one with his own face on it. 

"I'm usually a smiling person. I like to interact with people," Marquardt told CNN. "But if you have to wear a mask, you aren't that open anymore. People can't see your face. It's a way to show a bit of (my personality), an open and funny person." 

He's not the only one who has found a way to make wearing a face mask feel less uniform. 

Now, across the globe, people are no longer just using masks as protective gear -- they are using them to make statements about their personalities, their politics and their beliefs.

Masks to show off personality
Just as clothes can say a lot about a person, masks can too. 

Thousands of different patterns, colors, and styles have popped up on sites like Etsy, showcasing the increased interest in personalizing masks in the time of coronavirus.

The demand for creative masks is so high, there's now even a company that has formed its entire business model around them.

MaskClub, a company that launched last month, offers people a subscription for monthly face masks. The company has licensing deals with Hasbro, NASA, Warner Bros. -- so customers can match their moods with masks featuring characters like the Powerpuff Girls, Batman or Hello Kitty. 

Masks fit for the runway

Fashion brands Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Chanel announced last month that they would be dedicating several of their workshops across France to produce "hundreds of thousands of non-surgical face masks" for healthcare workers. 

No, these masks don't have Louis Vuitton's iconic logo or Burberry's signature checked pattern. They're strictly for function. But that hasn't stopped fashion lovers from repurposing their own luxury goods into masks. 

One glance at Instagram and you'll see hundreds of pictures of people donning masks with patterns from Gucci, Supreme, Louis Vuitton and more. 

Paris Colby, an artist from Indianapolis, Indiana, made her own mask out of a Gucci print shirt and material from a pair of vintage Army pants and jacket. 

"I feel like if it's something that I'm going to be wearing everyday, I see it as kind of an accessory," Colby told CNN. "Whatever you're wearing that day, you want it to go with whatever you have on. (When I wear my custom mask) I think it says, she's got good style, she's got good taste." 

Paris Colby wearing the mask she fashioned out of a Gucci shirt and vintage Army pants.  Courtesy Paris Colby.

Colby noted that masks have been a fashion item in Asia long before the coronavirus pandemic. It's rare to see a K-pop star not wearing a mask as part of their "airport fashion" looks. 

But in the age of the pandemic, the demand to be protected while sporting the hottest brands have skyrocketed. Searches for fashion face masks saw a jump of 496% over the first quarter of 2020, according to The Lyst Index, which ranks fashion's most popular brands and products. 

The hottest men's product of the quarter was Off-White's arrow logo mask, which cost $95. It's sold out at retailers worldwide, but resale platforms are listing the mask for up to three times its original price, The Lyst Index reported. 

Some people have sought out designer Samia al-Zakleh for custom masks. 

Al-Zakleh, a 29-year-old from Amman, Jordan, has been selling masks covered with Swarovski crystals.

(CNN)

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