Making Face Masks Fashionable And Sustainable
Credit: Pearl Lowe
It’s official: face coverings will be mandatory from 24th July in all shops and supermarkets. A few months ago this would have seemed improbable but seeing people wearing face masks is going to become a fixture of everyday life.
Why do we need to use them?
When we cough thousands of droplets get spread into the air: they can remain suspended there for several hours, during which time someone could breathe them in. Therefore, wearing a mask can potentially reduce the risk of the virus spreading to other people in your vicinity. Using a face mask is not about protecting yourself- it’s about decreasing the danger for others around you. While they’re definitely not substitutes for social distancing, it is hoped that face masks can still play some role in slowing down the spread of COVID-19. Although it is difficult to access N95 surgical masks, options like homemade masks could still help to keep infection rates down. Studies indicate that they help reduce the dispersal of the virus onto nearby surfaces when you cough.
Given that face masks are becoming a part of our wardrobe, a question many may be asking is how can we make them fashionable? You can easily make a face mask at home but as Vogue notes, with any wardrobe essential we naturally gravitate towards the most aesthetically pleasing option: designers have responded to this need. You can buy masks with beautiful floral patterns printed on them, bold stripes or simple but vibrant colours. Like any fashion accessory, we want to incorporate a little of our personality into what we wear -people might choose masks with various slogans on them, prints that have special significance to them or even choose a mask with their own face printed on it. Although the compulsory nature of face masks might have been initially jarring, it is comforting in a sense to see them re-imagined as a fashion statement. Being able to customise your mask may make you feel more comfortable wearing it and it also helps to normalise what can feel like a frightening situation. It may also help to remove some of the stigma surrounding wearing face masks, an unhelpful phenomenon which only serves to make efforts to reduce the spread much harder.
Another query that gets raised a lot when we discuss wearing face masks is how sustainable can they really be? Will the factories producing face masks have fair working environments or safeguards against environmental harm? Now face masks are becoming compulsory in more and more situations, we should start to wonder how we can counteract some of these issues.
Brands like Casetify and Vistaprint have started making reusable face masks, an option many are turning to. The British Council has also launched a range of reusable face masks created by six designers and intended to raise money for charity, which shows how the fashion industry working together at all levels can produce ethical outcomes.
During our latest crowdfunding campaign, we offered reusable face masks. Made by the brilliant bymadeleine_ on Etsy, they proved to be a popular choice for those offering support, showing their increasing popularity. Ethical fashion is taking up market space at a rapidly growing level as a whole, which hopefully indicates that designers will recognise the demand for more sustainable choices. It looks like face masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future so we should all think about how we can live with them, both fashionably and ethically.