How face masks in India went from being a necessity to a fashion statement

What began as a necessity to battle the novel coronavirus outbreak has kinda become a sartorial addition to make style statements.

 |  13-minute read |   21-07-2020
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When face masks were mandated in a bid to battle the novel coronavirus outbreak, hardly anyone would have imagined that they would end up getting a fashionable makeover. To be honest, no one also knew that this pandemic would hover over our lives and we would eventually be forced to wear masks for so long. The protective gear was supposed to help us fight the battle. But it has now doubled up as a fashion accessory. Not us; but the current scenario in the fashion world suggests so.

The market is brimming with masks boasting of quirky prints, bedazzling embellishments, elegant embroideries, hand-painted designs and what not. Interestingly, the availability of these 'fashionable face masks' is not limited. From local bazaars to high-end designers and everything in between (Instagram stores, e-commerce websites, apparel brands), these masks are everywhere.

I was surprised when a fashion-enthusiast cousin of mine shared with me that she saw really trendy face masks in a Delhi market she recently visited. The one with an animal print was her favourite. She was also tempted to buy a black sequined face mask, but that appeared to be more of a 'party number'. Well, that was quite an update for me to know that stylish face masks have found their way to markets.

In the couture world, designer duo Shivan & Narresh were among the first ones to launch a collection of face masks. The label's mask collection, ranging from Rs 2,000 to around Rs 8,000, featured striking prints and embellishments. The idea of designer face masks, during the unprecedented time when the world is battling a pandemic, did not amuse everyone.

The collection, understandably, did not go down well with everyone. It received a fair share of criticism on social media. But cut to a few weeks later, there emerged a raging trend in the Indian bridal fashion scene. Instagram was now flooded with photos of brides and grooms in coordinated 'wedding-perfect' masks.

Recently-wed Bhavdeep Kaur was among the first brides to grab attention with her mehndi ceremony look with an ornate face mask. She opted for a sunshine yellow lehenga and a matching mask covered her face. She cut the sleeves of her blouse to stitch it into a mask to go with her lehenga. Why she did that? She confessed in an Instagram post, after her photos went crazy viral: "I knew that I’d be wearing a mask most of the time during my mehendi and didn’t want to wear that basic blue mask because I knew I’d want to remove it then. So I thought of beautifying it, so here’s a fun fact — I literally cut out my blouse and used the sleeve to make this mask out of it and I was so happy to see how it turned out."

Ornate bridal masks are a hit among South Indian brides as well. Ace couturier Sabyasachi Mukherjee, revered for his dreamy bridal lehengas, is also now providing extra cloth material to his brides for the mask purpose. The fad is such. Otherwise, the designer had his stance clear on designer face masks. While speaking to Nonita Kalra at India Today e-Conclave, he had announced he will never do designer masks. He had labelled it as obnoxious and offensive.

Top bridal designers including Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla and Rimple & Harpreet Narula too have adapted to the 'new normal' in the bridal couture scenario. Some of their latest creations now come with matching masks.

Meanwhile, some homegrown labels (like Poochki) are selling printed masks at nominal prices and donating a mask to needy people on each sale.

The craze for not-so-ordinary-looking masks has also sort of revived the livelihood of several artists in the villages who were otherwise struggling for work amid the pandemic. Recently, contact details of a Madhubani artist from Bihar, who has been making hand-painted masks, went viral across social media platforms. His phone hasn't stopped ringing since then.

What began as a necessity to battle the novel coronavirus outbreak, has kinda become a sartorial addition to make style statements now. Next stop: the red carpet?

Also Read: How India is playing muse to global fashion


Medha Chawla Medha Chawla @medha_chawla

The author writes on Fashion and Lifestyle for India Today Digital.

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