Spectacle frames, strings, lenses, dental braces, arm slings are used by people because of medical needs, but they have gradually become a fashion accessory as well. Like American businesswoman, Iris Apfel’s spectacles are a statement per se. And people copy her style. With Covid-19 outbreak, face masks have joined the list of items that are primarily worn for medical needs but gradually became fashion accessories.
As the new fashion accessory this festive season, face masks are generating income and employment opportunities for the fashion industry, at a time when the entire industry is experiencing a slump.
One can experiment with different craft heritages and regional textiles to make masks look fashionable.
The fashion industry has witnessed micro trends related to masks in the past. In the current hour, the consumers are making a fashion statement with a perfectly matched mask and outfit. Be it an indigo, kalamkari, Jaipur block print, Ajrakh or handloom plains, consumers are giving this functional accessory an uplift. Masks have already started forming an integral part of our wardrobe. Designer Sukanya Bhattachariya of Prathaa Weaving Traditions says, “Masks are here to stay as a constant accessory in our lives, so it made sense for us to give it an aesthetic uplift. With Prathaa, the process started as a social demand to provide non-medical masks to the front-end essential services staff and then to cater to the demand of existing customers, giving it a stylish and chic twist.”
Adhering to Prathaa’s basic brand philosophy of sustainability, upcycling was the way to go for the masks too, so they sorted and used the pre-retail scrap of handloom cotton fabrics. Bhattachariya adds, “Keeping the shape and the fit comfortable, we have used the breathable, hand block printed, handloom Indian weaves like Ajrakh, khesh and jamdani which are usually used for all Prathaa designs. The colours and variety of prints and weaves add to the quirk along with enhancing aesthetics."
People today are making a fashion statement with a perfectly matched mask and outfit.
Fashion designer Sheetal Bhate says, “Tightly woven cotton along with natural silk or flannel is the most effective filter. Masks made with these fabrics are not only breathable and comfortable but also washable. Cotton and silk together can hold a static charge and provide a double barrier --- mechanical and electrostatic; thus, being the most effective fabrics while making masks. Additionally, I follow sustainability as a practice, and in the current scenario, it is a requirement and a reality that many will be consciously choosing to gravitate towards.”
One can experiment with different craft heritages and regional textiles to make masks look fashionable. India is blessed with good quality raw material starting from cotton to silks. Designer Prashant Garg of Label Pratham says, “We have a diverse range of craft practices like embroidery, block printing along with handloom traditions in every state. So, we can actually rely on designing masks from our own craft traditions and provide employment to the craftspeople in the process.”
Talking about the fabrics used, Garg says, “We are using cotton and silks primarily as they are Label Pratham staples. The inner layer is made of breathable cotton fabric coloured and printed with natural dyes, from craft traditions like Ajrakh in Gujarat. The outer layer is made on raw silk, procured from Karnataka for instance. It is designed with quintessential Pichwai motifs.”
Fashion always finds a way and human beings are undaunted in their search for ways to stand out, to communicate and to thrive in a treacherous environment. And so, the face mask — once purely functional has evolved at breakneck speed into something more.