If you’re plugged into social media—and chances are with international social distancing mandates in place, you really are—you might have noticed a luxury world kerfuffle over the weekend as an Off-White face mask priced over $1,000 on Farfetch began to circulate on Twitter and Instagram. The mask, with Off-White’s signature X logo on its front, was the subject of hundreds of outraged posts, prompting Farfetch to remove the mask (which was offered by a third-party reseller) and send an official response, noting the retailer had “blocked sales of face masks at excessive prices.” In Lyst’s first quarter index that very mask was named the “hottest men’s product” and Off-White the “hottest brand.”
Lyst serves as an e-commerce aggregator, collecting available items from stores around the world on its site and referring shoppers via affiliate links, releasing its data four times a year. Over the first quarter of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic reached its global apex, the site estimated that searches for masks increased 496%, with Off-White’s logo style being the most popular. “At a time when consumers around the world have found themselves confined to their homes, seeking connections online, Off-White’s loyal and highly-engaged social following has proven invaluable,” the report continues. Brand loyalty and direct-to-consumer communication is something Off-White founder Virgil Abloh touted during the Vogue Global Conversations earlier this month, proving his off-the-cuff social media strategy is working at retail.
But the mask’s resale price debacle and its place at the top of Lyst’s report also brings up the larger conversation of whether face masks, now recommended by the CDC, should be fashionable. The question was posed earlier by the New York Times, and in the days since, brands from J.Crew to Bravado, which produces musicians’ merch, have released masks meant to be as cute as they are functional. Some, like Collina Strada, are promising to donate a portion of mask sales to hospitals in need, while others, like Christopher Kane, are sending out free DIY mask kits using overstock fabric. Chances are that as the spread of the novel coronavirus continues, more and more brands will shift to making fashion-skewing styles for a profit, while brands that already made facemasks, like Off-White (regular retail price $95) and Marine Serre ($295, with a built-in air filter) will continue to produce their longterm styles.
Elsewhere in the Lyst Q1 report, available here, data shows an uptick in interest in comfortwear. Sweatshirts, fleeces, track pants, and robes from Gucci, Thom Browne, Loewe, Versace, Nike, and Anine Bing appear in the rest of Lyst’s “hottest” items rankings for men and women. Not everyone is ready for house clothes, though: Telfar’s popular shopping bag is climbing up the womenswear charts, proving that covetable—and affordable—goods are still selling, even during a crisis.