As cities across the world mandate that masks be worn in all public areas, it has become the accessory du jour – and face mask fashion has been a boon for struggling retailers.
Vogue, for example, has published more than one story per month about face-mask fashion since March. Google “face mask fashion” and you’ll find recommendations from top magazines, blogs, and news programs, including Refinery29, GQ, and The Today Show.
Like hand sanitizer, home disinfectants, and toilet paper, the face mask market has boomed during the pandemic. With governments mandating masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, brands of all sizes are profiting from mask sales, from creators on Etsy to legacy brands like Gap.
Gap, which was speculated to be near bankruptcy at the turn of this decade, pulled in $130 million in revenue from face mask sales in Q2 2020.
Similarly, Etsy helped more than 100,000 vendors sell $346 million worth of face masks so far this year. According to CBS, face mask sales reflected 14% of total sales across the platform.
Face mask fashion trend helps retailers large and small alike
The mask boom may even be keeping smaller retailers in business during the pandemic, or at least helping to avoid layoffs or furloughs.
In the US, shops like Joah Love, a small online children’s clothing company, now sells so many masks that they have trouble keeping them in stock.
There’s also Steele Canvas, a family-owned business selling laundry baskets, storage containers, chairs and totes, which told CBS they have made nearly $2 million in sales of masks alone. They only started making masks in March.
Steele Canvas also offers a way for customers to donate face masks to people in need and so far, has donated more than 30,000 masks to help “keep America moving.
Sand Cloud, has a different approach: Zero-waste masks, using fabric remnants to manufacture the masks, which makes each one unique and kind to the environment. Clearly this resonates with consumers, as these eco-conscious masks are currently sold out.
This trend makes sense, especially as cities around the world put varying regulations in place to contain the spread of COVID-19. Most require face masks inside shops and other indoor environments. In-classroom schooling also has returned in some parts of the world, with many students required to wear face masks all or some of the time.
After weeks and, for some, months of social distancing, people around the world are pulling out their dress clothes for a night out on the town, even if it turns out to be only a couple of hours and at a safe distance.
For most, this means a mandated mask — and some prefer to match that mask to their current outfit.
A fashion that’s here to stay?
It’s hard to say how long this trend will last, although it likely will slow down some throughout the rest of the year.
A vaccine may help us ditch the masks.
Then we can hang them in a museum dedicated to the year 2020, which is certainly one for the history books.
However, in Asia, wearing face masks has been an accepted practice for some years, as protection from pollution and to protect others from coughs or sneezes. The 2003 SARS virus outbreak, which affected several countries in the region, also drove home the importance of wearing masks. So, we may find that the practice continues, even once COVID-19 is eliminated or cured.
Meanwhile, a vaccine and its widespread availability is still some time away.
For now, face masks are giving us back a semblance of normality, whether it’s allowing us to:
Moreover, face mask sales are keeping our neighbors, community, and the brands we grew up with a means to carry forth amid all the uncertainty.
While face masks weren’t a trend the fashion industry expected for the autumn/winter collections for 2020, we’ll likely see them on the runways. They’re keeping the models and the spectators safe, and satisfying consumer demand for a bit of individuality and identity in the COVID-19 era.
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