Fashion Masks – The Intersection of Safety & Style

Illustration by Emily Wright

There is no doubt that with the onset of COVID-19 the fashion industry has changed dramatically. We did not see the annual MET Gala, fashion’s biggest, and my favorite, night of the year. Some of our stores closed their doors, and though temporary for most, the brands that have been hit financially cannot be overstated. The question remains, how does the industry keep growing but also serve its consumers what is needed most during this pandemic.

The answer lies in face masks. As a society, face masks have now become an everyday occurrence. They are essential to our protection and safety, but not everyone is content or comfortable with medical mask blue being their only option. Thankfully a number of designers and brands have helped us out and created masks that are expressive, bold, and beautiful – reminding us all that fashion still exists even during times like these. 

I gathered up some of my favorite masks by designers and brands all around the world! Some are more financially accessible than others, hint hint Hayley Elsaesser, but there are so many mask options that there’s something to satisfy every budget and personal taste.

COLLINA STRADA

Starting off with a fan-favorite of mine, Collina Strada is known for mixing patterns and prints to create dynamic looks, and these masks are no different. Cut from deadstock fabric from past collections, the masks feature oversized bows on the ear loops that make it a real fashion mask. You don’t have to compromise safety, as the mask has a pocket for inserting a filter of your choice. 

HELMSTEDT

Up-and-coming Danish brand HELMSTEDT features masks also made from upcycled deadstock materials from their SS20 collection. On their website you find a handful of masks in different colors and patterns. This black and yellow “beestract” print is the perfect addition to any monochromatic look! They will also donate the profits from the sales of safety masks to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. 

CHRISTIAN SIRIANO

Designing ball gowns and couture collections have taken a back seat as Christian Siriano is currently focusing on creating face masks. What started out as a small effort to donate face covers to New York City hospitals, has become a well-oiled machine, creating and donating over 10,000 to healthcare workers in need of PPE. Siriano also released a small line of beaded and pearl encrusted fashion masks with a $600 price tag. Don’t worry though, the proceeds from those sales go directly back to their mask project fund to continue making PPE for frontline workers.

HAYLEY ELSAESSER

Toronto based fashion designer Hayley Elsaesser created masks that look every bit joyful, bright, and quirky! Featured designs include palm leaf prints, rolling dice, bees, and flowers all on colorful backgrounds. Priced at $25 a mask, with a portion of proceeds going towards food banks providing COVID-19 relief in Canada, you can feel happy and fashionable in this mask!

UNION WESTERN

A bit closer to home, Indianapolis based Union Western designer Jerry Lee Atwood has been creating western wear since 2001. He has famously dressed both Post Malone and Lil Nas X in his designs, but since the COVID-19 crisis he has now pivoted to making masks. Keeping with his signature western style, the face covers are a cool blend of fashion and function!