Are luxury masks effective?


If there is one accessory that we would have done without in 2020, it’s him. Imposed on our faces for health reasons, the mask has nevertheless become the object of all desires. Initially reserved for healthcare personnel in direct contact with Covid-19, it has also proved essential for the rest of the population in order to stem the spread of the virus, to the point, moreover, of creating a shortage.

Not found a few months ago, the disposable surgical mask has been replaced by “homemade” alternatives: scarves, handkerchiefs and fabrics of all kinds. Sewing tutorials, offered by fashion brands or individuals, have spread online. A few strokes of the needles were enough to hatch reusable fabric protections in the streets. Much greener according to some, but especially much prettier for others, already tired of baby blue fabric not really becoming.

Can a mask be beautiful?

In order to compensate for the lack, ready-to-wear manufacturers working in short circuit have moreover been able to lend a hand to the collective effort by converting their textile factories – French, let us specify it, in the manufacturing chain masks. While some brands like Chantelle or 1083 have been praised for their virtuous actions, others, hit hard by the global crisis, saw in this object the opportunity to boost both their sales and their brand image. Olivier Saillard, fashion historian, deplores it: “It would be inappropriate and very vulgar to have a logo on a mask and take advantage of it. ” he told AFP. Too late.

Still, it is now possible to acquire washable monogrammed masks, made in the “signature” fabric of the Burberry firm. Which, with one stone, solves the problem of overstocks and unsold goods. Or masks branded with the Off White logo, designed by star designer Virgil Abloh… and already sold online three times their original price. And even a UFO of a new kind, marketed 800 euros (!), Halfway between the visor, the hat and the sunglasses, all signed Louis Vuitton.

Louis Vuitton visor

These luxurious alternatives – and much more elegant than the pilled and crumpled mask in the coat pocket – raise a question, however: are they really effective? More generally, the fashion industry, also saving it was in the supply of masks, can it rub shoulders with the field of health so codified?

Like glasses, the mask has become a medical object that has become a style marker

Nothing is less certain, according to the World Health Organization. Last May, the institution warned on the hypothesis that the virus could never disappear. And so become embedded in our daily life over the long term.

“Other epidemics will break out, the mask will thus become an accessory in its own right” underlines Géraldine Bouchot, trends and perspective director in the Carlin style office. “Just like glasses, which are of medical utility, they have to be declined in styles, but also that they be washable, for obvious ecological reasons, and that they are above all effective. “

The Ministry of Solidarity and Health classifies the different masks as follows: FFP2, capable of filtering at least 94% of harmful substances, whether of chemical or infectious origin, surgical masks made up of three layers: two non-woven materials enclosing a layer of material filtering at least 80% of the aerosols of particles and finally the so-called “general public” masks whose fabric filters between 70% and 90% of the particles. These must meet a number of criteria validated by Afnor (French Association for Standardization). Marketed between a few cents and a few euros, these protections are the most formidable in the face of Covid-19.

As for luxury brands, the aesthetic aspect seems to take precedence over sanitary rules. At Burberry, it is also specified on the merchant site that the mask – marketed 100 euros, all the same – “does not replace personal protective equipment”.

The Burberry mask

The Burberry mask

What about the Louis Vuitton visor? A fashionable snobbery, of course, but not recommended when you know that the virus is very volatile.

“There is a lack of consistency at a time when consumers expect a certain transparency and genuine commitment from brands,” notes Géraldine Bouchot.

In Paris, while the last Fashion Week has just ended in a very special atmosphere, many brands have provided masks stamped with their logo to their guests. Balmain, Louis Vuitton, Chloé or even Paco Rabanne offered their disposable version to a handful ofhappy few. A way to ensure barrier gestures and a vast and rather clever communication operation aimed at spreading their post-show logo on a few Instagram selfies. Other creators have solved the thorny problem by presenting only a digital parade, in order to limit the risks of massive contagion and to eliminate restrictive logistics in the process. At Chanel, there is no marketing at stake but a neutral and disposable surgical mask, imposed on each guest, as if it were necessary to remember that the object of the event was on the podium and not on the faces of the spectators.

The masked guests at the Chanel show, October 6, 2020

The masked guests at the Chanel show, October 6, 2020

At a time when designers are wondering how to produce fashion and its temporality, this meditation does not yet seem to be topical concerning the mask model which would transcend the trend. In the meantime, a Savoyard SME is about to market its “Precimask” project: a silicone protective mask “Made in France” made up of a ceramic filter cartridge that filters up to 99% of air particles, neutral for humans as well as for the environment. And even technology is getting started: last September, LG presented its connected air purifying mask at the IFA trade fair in Berlin. A small revolution which could interest luxury and initiate, who knows, the collaboration of the year.



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