Face masks looked different in March. The ones at medical stores or online marketplaces were disposable, dull grey or green. They looked like they’d match well with surgical scrubs or hazmat suits. You were buying them for utility, you convinced yourself, not fashion.
But as the pandemic spread across India, and face masks became compulsory, fashion brands jumped at the opportunity to make them resuable and more stylish. Think of them as the newest accessory to complete your at-home or briefly-stepping-outdoors look, whether you’re in pin-striped formals, loungewear, your trusty kurta or even your wedding lehenga.
Do confirm that the masks you pick, whether from below or elsewhere, are safe and effective. Here are some pointers: The World Health Organization recommends non-medical masks in public. Ideally, cloth masks must consist of at least three layers of fabric: an inner layer in an absorbent material like cotton, a middle layer of non-woven materials such as polypropylene (for the filter) and an outer layer, which should ideally be a non absorbent material such as a polyester.
FOR THE QUIRKY
Why look like yourself when you can look like Virat Kohli, Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt from the eyes down? Instagram brand @AmMask2020 has cheeky, digitally printed masks featuring celebrity faces down to signature full lip or sharp jawline. Order via DM.
Kolkata-based online brand, The June Shop has thus far specialised in fun prints on coin purses, stationery, mugs, tote bags and other everyday items. They’ve recently added two-layer cotton face masks too. Graphic prints feature moustaches and chubby cheeks. But you might like the ones with slogans: Caution: Stay Back!!!
Online brand Bellofox has extended its range of accessories, gifts and casual jewellery to include masks. They donate a share of all masks produced to charity. Theirs come in bright, handicrafts-inspired prints and add a nice pop of colour to a neutral outfit
Propshop, the brand popular for its pop-culture derived merchandise, has a range of cheeky catchphrases on its masks — Atma Near Bar; Spread Love, Not Germs; and All The Cool Kids Are Doing It capture the spirit of the time perfectly.
If all you’ve done is binge-watch shows through the lockdown, emerge from your den with appropriately themed masks from accessories brand SoxyToes. Money Heist, Joker, they’re all there.
What to pair with your easy-wear, all-natural, sustainable wardrobe? Linenwear brand ByKaveri has three-layer masks in soft pastels and an outer linen shell with delicate embroidery and contrast edging. There are slots to insert N95 filters too, if you need to.
IN THE BOARDROOM
Men’s accessories brand BowNSquare gets local craftsmen of Dehradun to create bowties, neckties, cravats and pocket squares. Their masks sandwich melt-blown fabric between cotton and go well with dressed-up looks and suits. They’re a nice upgrade when you want your look to mean business.
SOCIALLY DISTANCED SHAADI?
Designers are only too happy to oblige with masks that mirror your party look. Indore-based Tahani Manaquib’s label, TamaraaByTahani, makes gowns, separates and saris. But it now also hand embroiders satin, silk and handloom fabrics with floral and ornamental designs on fancy face masks.
The online brand Artefectodesigns draws on the needle art and embroidery skills of Jaipur’s artisans. Their collection of wedding masks has light, decorative elements — a row of tiny beads, zardozi motifs, paisley motifs — set against rich Indian fabrics.
Delhi designer Bhaavya Bhatnagar has turned the sari jumpsuit into a chic evening-out option. Her masks, however, are lavish pieces that incorporate velvet, intricate embroidery, beadwork and detachable pearl-chain retainers.
For the after-party, where more is always more, Kolkata label LeeNLou has been selling fully sequined metallic masks on Instagram. They go with more contemporary occasion wear and might put shine to the disco ball.
MASKS FOR CHANGE
In Bihar, Madhubani artist Raman Kumar Mishra has been creating three-layer cotton masks with original artwork. The coverings are exquisite and brightly painted. And at Rs 50 a mask, a good way to support Indian artisans. Contact Mishra on 9899429912 to order.
After a suggestion from one of their artisans, Gujarat-based Ajrakh specialists, Sangisathi, are ingeniously upcycling the leftover fabric from their kurtis, blouses and shirts into funky masks. The cotton masks are reversible (they recommend washing with soap before you turn it inside-out) and come in a range of block prints. They’re available on sethnics.com.
Kashmir-based online store MeCraaz has focused on pashmina, copperware and rugs. The lockdown has been hard on the region’s artisans, who have been creating face masks to adjust to new customer demands. The masks have beaded neck-chains, fabrics that range from denim to cotton and linen and are triple-layered with a non-woven filter sheet in the middle for protection.
YOUR FACE IS THE CANVAS
Online brand The Face Armour has bright kitschy prints, florals, geometrics, camouflage and muted sequins. They’ll soon allow users to design and order their own masks.
Meanwhile, another web-based company Fighting Fame, which manufactures casual wear, has launched a range of masks inspired by classic, contemporary and folk art, some of it Indian. The company donates a share of all masks produced to charity.
Bengaluru artist Vidhi Khandelwal’s brand, The Ink Bucket, puts her signature hand-painted illustrations on home décor, stationery, accessories and now face masks. The two-layer masks have bright happy prints, the kind that make you think of a summer holiday or sunny brunch, so what if you can’t have either?