Months into the pandemic, it is well established that protective face masks are going to be the "new normal" and a necessity for any activity that involves going outside, at least for a long time coming. Let's be clear, they are 'essential'. But recent events occurring in the fashion industry are making us wonder if there's a thin line between essentials and accessories; between public service and profit-making.
Fact: There has been a shortage of protective face masks for civilian use as well as in hospitals across the world. Recently, Indian designer duo Shivan & Narresh launched three new masks "perfect for a modern decadent look". "Discover a world of classic monochromes, signature prints to masterful skeins in art masks," said their Instagram caption.
Their promotion for the designer masks was bombarded with a lot of questions and criticism from netizens. The designers were accused of profiting from the global crisis and capitalising on the pandemic disguised as essential. Here are some reactions:
Netizens questioned the need for making masks that lend a "decadent look" when quality masks are available for as low as 100 bucks and do the job just fine.
Furthermore, the post said, "10% of the value of the #Masks are being contributed to @Goonj for the cause of rehabilitation of the migrant labour community." This infuriated the people more as they also called out the brand for donating such a small percentage of the proceeds for the migrant crisis in India.
Designer Narresh Kukreja addressed the comments explaining the launch of the masks and how these price points will help support the artisans involved in the production. It only backfired as these comments were deemed 'condescending with a smiley :) face' by more than one users. Check out what Narresh had written:
As they say, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And it did!
In an interview, Narresh had earlier said, "Irrespective of the social occasion, it will be nice to step out in designer masks. The aim is for them to be statement pieces too." Their goal is to change the perspective of wearing masks from liability to fashion assets. But more than anything, do you think it's the need of the hour? Perhaps a few months later, when things begin to settle and there is a demand for stylish masks to complement our outfits, this move by Shivan & Narresh could have shone in a different light! Even for luxury lovers and brand loyalists.
However, there are many who are doing it for the greater good. Indian industry has taken charge of the situation and helped by making and donating reusable masks to those who can't afford them and to frontline workers. Brands like Ritu Kumar, Anita Dongre, Shyamal & Bhumika, Papa Don't Preach, Lovebirds, Eka, Nitya Bajaj, to name a few have consciously contributed to the fight against COVID-19, at the same time, wonderfully and organically pushing for the #VocalForLocal cause.
Sabyasachi donated personal funds of Rs 1 crore and 50 lakhs to PM’s Relief fund and CM of West Bengal’s relief fund respectively. In a statement, the designer had also stated that as a brand, making masks is obnoxious and offensive, "I think it is really obnoxious and it is really offensive to do designer face masks. If I have to use my factory to be able to manufacture face masks, which is just a simple mask and where I am only a vendor, I am happy to do that. I will never put my label on a face mask. Ever."
There's no denying that even when all of this is over when we step out, we won't forget to wear our masks. Just like we wear sunglasses when we step out in scorching heat or jackets and scarves during winters. But does that mean masks should also be treated like clothes or sunglasses, an individual fashion statement?
Featured Image: Instagram