Updated: Oct 19
Face masks… but make it fashion.
The role personal protective equipment (PPE) plays in our day-to-day lives has become increasingly prominent throughout these past months. During this time, I have seen almost every kind of face-covering imaginable; from custom-printed face masks that show an image of the wearer’s real smile, to embroidered gaiters, people have been incorporating all kinds of fun and unique designs in their PPE in order to make protecting ourselves from the spread of a dangerous virus feel less like a chore. Almost every clothing store - online and in-person - that I’ve been to since the pandemic began sells some sort of variation of masks, and luxury brands are no exception.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t see this coming. Masks are becoming more and more common, and because of the way people have been trying to incorporate them into their outfits to appear more fashionable, I expected designer brands to take advantage of the situation and try releasing their own collections of luxury PPE… and I was right.
Vogue published an article on a recent Louis Vuitton announcement, stating that the brand was going to be releasing its own line of protective face shields starting on Oct. 30. No price has been set yet for the product, but you can assume it’s going to be on the more expensive side. The plastic face shield includes trimming with the iconic LV pattern that we all know so well and is supposed to transition from light to dark depending on the lighting conditions.
Louis Vuitton is certainly not the first high-end brand to come out with luxury PPE. Off-White, another apparel brand known to be relatively expensive and luxurious, released their own cotton face mask that retails for $95 on the SSense website (although the website mentions that 100% of the proceeds from purchasing the mask will go directly towards COVID-19 relief efforts). Additionally, Hillary Taymour, a New York high-end designer who started the brand Collina Strada, has released her own face mask on her website, retailing for $100. Collina Strada’s website mentions that with one face mask purchased, the brand will donate three to Seeding Sovereignty, an Indigenous-led organization that has also been supporting COVID-19 relief efforts.
With the release of these luxury PPE products, one must ask themself whether or not this is considered appropriate given the circumstances. We are living through an incredibly dangerous and stressful pandemic, trying to protect ourselves from a virus that has been proven to be incredibly harmful and even deadly, and face-coverings have proven to be one of the simplest and most important tools for doing so. One could argue that by selling their own PPE, luxury brands are essentially trying to profit off a situation that has directly impacted the lives of many, and that can be considered inappropriate.
On the other hand, there is the argument that there are a variety of face coverings that are accessible to the general public for much more affordable prices that are a viable option and substitute for the designer products. Therefore, there’s no reason to get upset over them, as they aren’t replacing the cheaper ones.
I definitely believe PPE such as face masks and shields are something that need to be widely accessible for anyone because of the extremely important role they play in all of our lives when it comes to protecting ourselves from the coronavirus. The University of Kentucky has already provided me with five free face masks as of today, and I have also been able to purchase a 5-pack of masks off of Amazon for just about $12. But, although I believe that the high-end PPE being released - such as the LV face shield and the Off-White mask - are unnecessary, I don’t think they’re doing any harm either. The products are unique and fun and are making protecting yourself look and feel much more stylish and luxurious, and as someone who loves fashion, I find it to be extremely exciting.
Who knows how much longer we could be wearing face masks in public wherever we go, but however long it may be, people are finding endless ways to make the act of staying safe and protecting ourselves feel more and more like a fashion show.