Now that we’re all (hopefully) wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, there’s a demand for fabric coverings that are not only functional but also stylish. As with any form of fashion, your face mask can say a lot about you. It’s natural to want to express yourself with it, even under such dire circumstances, and seeing that the accessory will, unfortunately, be necessary for a while, some people will want to splurge on one that feels special.
In lockdown, many small and independent fashion designers have channeled their creative talents toward making face masks that are colorful, fun, and maybe even a little freaky. Collina Strada, for example, was early in making ones with elegant bow ties, California designer James Flemons of Phlemuns got creative with prints, and Rio Uribe of Gypsy Sport made beaded coverings to spruce up any run-of-the-mill N-95.
If you want to add a little pizzaz to your pandemic wardrobe, here are some of our favorite fashion face masks.
Collina Strada is known for a kind of outsize, mindful creativity (witness its pantry-themed runway show from last year), and this mask, with its huge checkerboard bow, is right in line with the brand ethos. True, it costs $100 — but for every one that the brand sells, three will go to Seeding Sovereignty, a nonprofit that works in partnership with indigenous communities. And if you or a loved one is sick and this mask is out of your price range, the brand will send you another one at no charge if you reach out directly.
Gypsy Sport designer Rio Uribe has a knack for turning everyday objects into one-of-a-kind fashions, whether it’s a dress made out of tin cans or a shirt made out of shells. This beaded wire face mask is meant to be worn over a surgical mask, creating the reverse effect: It turns a utilitarian object into something special. Proceeds will be donated to the Common Thread relief fund, which benefits other small American designers in need.
Handbag designer Clare Vivier is known for minimal, sleek silhouettes upgraded with fun prints and colors, which is exactly what she’s done with her assorted face masks. The Cut’s deputy fashion editor Izzy Grinspan likened their look to Jenna Lyons–era J.Crew. The fact that they’re back-ordered until September indicates that, even after a decade in business, Clare V. is still giving the people what they want. And there’s still some spontaneity in every order — fabrics vary for each assorted four-pack.
James Flemons’s genderless cool-but-casual pieces have been worn by everyone from Solange Knowles to Julia Fox in Uncut Gems. Charli XCX was recently photographed wearing one of the brand’s cloud-print masks, though she failed to match it with the cloud-print sweatsuit. When it comes to a pandemic wardrobe, Phlemuns has you covered.
69 is a mysterious denim brand based in Los Angeles. A lot of its work strategically covers the face and the body, so it was a no-brainer for it to get into face masks this year. All of the proceeds will go to Justice for Breonna Taylor.
As the name implies, Meals Clothing takes the phrase “you are what you eat” very literally. In addition to watermelon prints, it’s also found inspiration in bananas, lettuce, pita bread, doughnuts, and shrimp. The irony, of course, is that you can’t eat any of these things while wearing one of its face masks, but at least you’ll look delicious.
Lou Dallas is a New York–based designer who’s been sewing together old T-shirts and vintage fabrics out of her studio-slash-apartment for the last few months. Her aesthetic is a little naughty and a little nice — the masks she makes combine delicate lace and bows with punk patchwork. They’re such a mood that when she posts new ones on her Instagram, they sell out almost instantly (which helps explain the steep price). Twenty percent of proceeds will be donated to Hungry Monk, a Queens-based organization dedicated to fighting food insecurity and homelessness throughout the city.
Founded in 2005, threeASFOUR is a trio of transnational artists based in New York City: Gabriel Asfour (from Lebanon), Angela Donhauser (from the USSR), and Adi Gil (from Israel). Their masks are inspired by traditional scarves. Ten percent of each purchase will go toward creating medical masks for the health community in New York City.
Canadian designer Erdem Moralioglu is a regular on the London Fashion Week roster. (His mum is English.) He’s beloved for his floral prints, and now you can get one in face-mask form. At $65, it’s actually a good deal for a piece by a designer who’s dressed Cate Blanchett, Michelle Williams, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Teni “Tia” Adeola was born in Nigeria, raised in London, and is now based in New York. She created a successful brand from her dorm room at the New School and graduated in 2019. As you can tell from her masks, she’s got a background in art history, and her passion for the Renaissance period serves as inspiration for her designs.
L.A. Roxx made a name for itself in the 1980s as a go-to custom leather shop for rock stars like Michael Jackson and Guns N’ Roses, and it’s still got its edge — even in a pandemic. These bungee-cord masks are perfect for a rave (of one). A portion of sales from each mask will go to charities helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Xuly.Bët is a Parisian fashion house founded by Lamine Kouyaté in 1991. Its name translates to “keep your eyes open” in Wolof, a language of Senegal. If we’re looking into the future, the ability to match your mask with the rest of your outfit is the move, and Xuly.Bët is a one-stop shop.
If Marie Antoinette was ever in need of a face mask, this bedazzled one by Fallon — a New York–based jewelry brand — would fit the bill. It’s not easy wearing earrings with a mask, and this one solves that problem four times over.
The Scottish luxury designer’s “More Joy” capsule collection could not be more relevant. Who doesn’t need some joy right now?
The fun-loving handbag designer has translated her colorful aesthetic to face masks, and they’re selling out just as fast as her beaded bags. Although no one will likely be attending a Fashion Week bat mitzvah or a musical anytime soon, her designs will keep the positive energy flowing in the meantime.
Tanya Taylor’s mission has always been to inspire people to “live in color,” and that now applies to face masks as well. Her energetic prints are perfect for summer, especially the one with flamingos all over it.
Café Forgot is a little New York retail gem: a roving pop-up shop that has fostered a niche community around its arty one-of-a-kind pieces. But in lockdown, it was forced to join the virtual universe just like the rest of us. Founders Lucy Weisner and Vita Haas weren’t sure how their firmly IRL project would translate online, but these face masks by LivByLive are already selling out.
Fashion Brand Company
If its website can be believed, Fashion Brand Company is the first fashion line that is exclusively designed by, run by, and tailored to lizards. Hence its motto: “Fashion Brand Company: We only make clothes for lizards.” Apparently, lizards need face masks, too. The founders were generous enough to make them in human size.
You’ll know a Steak Diane print when you see one. Designer Todd Heim began sewing masks for his friends in lockdown, and his fun prints, like a shirtless, buff cowboy, quickly gained a cult following. He’s now expanded his range to include lips drinking a martini and smoking a cigarette. Twenty-five percent of proceeds go to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.
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