There was a time when masks were a part of fashion shows as a styling addition in a designer’s narrative. However, today they have become covetable pieces of fashion that will be stacked in every closet, retailing at every high-street store, every ecommerce website and an integral part of every designer’s collection.
Back in 2013, Alexander McQueen came out with a collection where models’ faces were covered with masks, Maison Margiella’s Fall/Winter 2013 collection had model’s heads encased in embellished and abstract masks, Jean Paul Gaultier’s SS14 collection had myriad embellished veils in tulle. In 2016, Givenchy came out with lace ones- Givenchy’s spring/summer 2016 show models, wore elaborate bejeweled masks that were applied directly onto their skin which was the creatice director, Riccardo Tisci’s take on the four horsemen of the apocalypse - and Dior had tulle versions in 2018. Labels such as Moschino, Thom Browne, Marine Serre and Gucci have showcased their quirky and glam take on masks by reconciling theatricality and glamour way before the corona outbreak. This year at the Grammys, Gucci made a bespoke face mask for Billie Eilish which became a statement piece.
Back home, many designers toyed with the same as well. Designer Rajesh Pratap Singh used it in his show first in 2015 then in 2019. He used masks at different instances for different collections to express different narratives everytime. “Masks have been used thrice. The show in 2015 was about our fascination/ respect for the healthcare industry. The show was called, Medicine is the best laughter, and the focus was to appreciate our health care personnel. In January 2019, a show with the historic Red Fort as a backdrop where we used masks again. It was then that the textile ministry felicitated many of our artisans and craftspeople alongwith three designers for their contribution to the Indian textile space - special mention was made and recognition given to the unseen hands behind the works of many designers - the master weavers and craftspeople,” explains Rajesh Pratap Singh.
Designer Narendra Kumar used it in his show as a narrative when he showcased communal rioting and rift in the fashion industry in 2012. “Masks were used in a Gandhian way to protest but in silence. This drastic change was unimaginable at that time, we couldn’t have thought, how the story would change,” explains designer Narendra Kumar.
Even Manish Arora made his interpretations of the masks with kitschy prints in 2016. However, they were all just an ‘add on’ to the show and not a trend that would make it on the style radar, with a fancy moniker.
Today, as we are engulfed with the fear of the corona outbreak, masks have become a necessary accessory to don everyday just like mascara or lipstick to many. “It was a quirky element that added to the story the designer had in mind. It was for people to make notice. And today they have become second skin, it is imperative. We should make sure we get masks made of organic fabrics so that they are biodegradable,” explains designer Payal Jain.