Face masks are making fashion history as the coronavirus epidemic invades every aspect of people’s lives.
“If there is a symbol of the current confusion and fear, the misinformation and anxiety, generated by the spread of the new coronavirus, it is the surgical face mask,” says the New York Times.
Manufacturers started running off fashionable visors two or three years ago, with designers featuring face masks as symbols of resistance with an apocalyptic tinge as fine-dust pollution became a major concern.
LeMASKA, a mask maker established in 2017, has seen sales boom since late January, when the epidemic erupted in Korea. Fashion brand BreaThe Suit’s sales have surged since it opened pop-up stores in department stores in January.
One industry insider said, “We are seeing a wide range of masks that go with formal attire, outdoor exercise and other occasions. People feel a face mask completes quarantine fashion.”
Sports apparel brands like FILA have introduced face masks whose filters can be replaced.
Italian luxury fashion label Off-White rolled out eight types of face masks earlier this month. The cloth masks cost an eye-watering US$95 and have no protective function but are nonetheless in high demand. Swedish mask maker Airinum has run out of inventory even though its masks cost between W60,000 and W90,000 (US$1=W1,236).
Park Joo-young at Soongsil University said, “There will be continued demands for masks which go well with other clothing, but customers should not overlook their functionality to see if they can effectively protect from virus transmission or fine dust.”
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