Animal print, beads or plain black, masks become about style

Karen White, owner of K&K Logo Designs in Dyersville, Iowa, works with fabric for a mask. Photo contributed. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Volunteers work on facemask orders at K&K Logo Designs in Dyersville, Iowa. Hundreds of masks have been sent to nursing homes around eastern Iowa. Photo contributed. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Verona seamstress Bev Hamilton has turned to making face masks to recuperate lost income from this spring's prom cancellations. PHOTO CREDIT: TH file

Sue Willett has been helping to make face masks for BPNN volunteers. Photo contributed. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

A collection of COVID-19 masks sewn by volunteers resembles a patchwork quilt. Photo by Mike Day. PHOTO CREDIT: Mike Day


They can be colorful or come in basic black, make a political statement or just a funny one.

Masks made of cotton and other washable materials have become big sellers and an emerging fashion item, as face coverings have been increasingly mandated around the world to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Sales are expected to get another boost after Britain and France announced that they will require masks in public indoor spaces. That could help France’s textile and luxury goods companies unload a surplus of masks that numbered 20 million in June.

In addition, at least 25 U.S. states are requiring masks in many indoor situations. Oregon even began requiring masks outdoors if people can’t stay 6 feet apart.

In a sign that masks are becoming a fashion trend, Vogue magazine recently listed 100 “aesthetically pleasing” selections. The fashion magazine’s recommendations include a mask with beaded accents from Susan Alexandra. The cost: $70. Masks made from vintage quilt tops, by Farewell Frances, go for $25.

After Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi began wearing masks that matched her outfits, people watching her on news channels noticed they had a Donna Lewis label on them. The boutique in Alexandria, Va., became besieged by purchase orders and soon ran out of the labels, which customers demanded.

The boutique has a huge backlog of orders, co-owner Chris Lewis said.

“I’m shipping them all over the world now,” Lewis said. “Orders are so furious, I can’t keep up.”

Perhaps showing some fashion sense, when President Donald Trump wore a mask publicly for the first time recently, he chose a navy-blue one that bore the presidential seal and matched the color of his suit.

Thanks to mask sales, Etsy, the online crafts marketplace, has seen revenue jump. In April alone, Etsy sold 12 million masks, generating $133 million in sales.

“If face masks were a stand-alone category, it would have been the second biggest category on Etsy in the month of April,” CEO Josh Silverman said.

Second-quarter revenue, to be announced in August, will likely show mask sales are red hot.

Black masks are in highest demand, followed by white and floral patterns, Etsy spokeswoman Lily Cohen said.

“We are seeing lots of unique variations on masks, including personalization with names and monograms … styles with animal faces or lips,” she said.

There’s also the comical, like the one that says, “Resting mask face.”

Also available are masks saying, “Black lives matter” with an image of a raised fist. Some businesses have told employees they can’t wear them, sparking debate about appropriate workplace attire and the desire to show solidarity with the fight against racism.

Masks can show patriotism as well as activism.

In Paris, a firefighter wore a face covering with the colors of the French flag before marching in the Bastille Day parade celebrating the national holiday this week along the Champs Elysees. Others at a protest across town wore yellow masks, representing the yellow vest movement against economic injustice that began in late 2018.

Workers at restaurants and other businesses are wearing masks with corporate logos. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown wears one showing the state flag.

In Colombia, dozens of fashion companies have pivoted to producing masks, including ones with colorful images of toucans, jaguars and other tropical designs that normally go on expensive swimsuits. South Africans often sport masks made of colorful African fabrics.

But for many consumers, plain white will do.

When Uniqlo, a major Japanese clothing retailer, put its white “cool and dry” masks with breathable fabric on sale in June, shoppers lined up at stores and crashed its website. Supplies sold out in hours.

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