Should Masks Be Fashion Accessories? –

Chioma Nnadi: I decorated my cast when I twisted my ankle—definitely wore that for my health. Does that constitute a flex? I think many designers have been sensitive to [the accessibility issue] and are donating masks for each sold.

Emily Farra: Yes, that’s so important! The concept of making a profit on masks is really fraught. On one hand, people do need them, and these are the kinds of opportunities that arise from crises—but i’m glad most designers are giving a percent of proceeds to charity, or donating a mask for every sale, etc.

Rickie De Sole: I’ve been seeing so many people give cloth masks to others as gifts. Mostly fabric ones that have been made at home. There is a real community aspect about it that I love. I think we all need a reason to smile right now and a decorated mask might do just that!

Liana Satenstein: To Steff’s point: That story we did about the photographer photographing people’s masks in Brooklyn, it makes sense wearing one that has personality and is an expression of self and feels positive. It’s more welcoming even though you can’t see a person’s emotions. I think tricking it out yourself is fine. But we have to question: How are these made? What are the conditions of how these are being made (in general and during COVID?).

Emily Farra: Agree, I think Steff’s point was more about the slippery slope of masks becoming the new status symbol, i.e. designer masks or logo’d masks (to Liana’s point) not just the idea of masks being cute.

Steff Yotka: Agreed. I asked for a special cast when I broke my wrist! (All black of course.) Personal expression is so important for mental health and a sense of self—and we need that so much right now. But I think a flex is showing off a designer mask as a status symbol or luxury good.

Chioma Nnadi: I guess that doesn’t offend me as much as no mask.

Steff Yotka: No mask is the supreme worst. Even though the commodification of and capitalization on a healthcare item feels like murky ethical territory to me, I would still endorse a Supreme mask since it keeps you out of that Supreme coffin.

Sarah Spellings: But to move on to Liana’s point, there have been some reports about PPE made in sweatshops, which is endemic in the fashion industry across the board, but feels especially wrong for PPE.

Emily Farra: Yes, I’ve also been thinking about how these masks are made! On one hand, a lot of these factories have had massive order cancellations, so new orders for masks could be helping people stay employed. But I think the fact that these masks are functional and necessary has led people to buy them up quickly, perhaps without thinking about what they’re made of or who made them like we would a typical “fashion purchase.”

If masks are going to be our new accessory (which definitely seems to be the case) we should treat them like any other fashion purchase—something we want to wear, made by a company we want to support. It’s the same conversation as conscious/mindful consumption.

Rickie De Sole: It’s a rare moment when everyone in the US is focused on one singular item—it is natural that we will all embrace it differently. But bottom line, wear a mask!


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