Courtesy Assembly Creators Market
The demand for face masks increased exponentially when the coronavirus hit.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he wears masks in public to protect himself and others. In addition to helping mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many in the fashion industry say they are now fashion-compatible.
“(The mask) has become a fashion tool that you can play with,” Chicago artist Isabelle Gougenheim said.
Gougenheim explained she uses street arts in her mask designs. Some of her inspiration comes from graffiti, and her designs allow people who have stayed home for a long time to feel the world outside.
When the demand for masks expanded, Gougenheim paired the mask with a scarf, using the same design on both and selling them together as a package, she said.
However, customers later asked if they could buy the mask only. Gougenheim then separated the mask from the scarf and sold the two separately.
“My take on masks is that they are like socks and underwear,” Evanston Stitchworks owner Amalia Malos said. “Everybody needs them, and they need to be clean.”
Malos said a mask is now a necessary accompaniment to an outfit due to the pandemic. She added it is important to find a mask that fits and in which the person feels comfortable.
Evanston Stitchworks does not offer custom masks, but the store offers a variety of fabric prints and solids that customers can choose from to style with their outfits, Malos said.
Assembly Creators Market owner Reyes Witt said some of the masks at her boutique are designed by artists from the Chicago area. Fifty percent of the profits go directly to the artists.
“It is keeping people employed,” Witt said. “I can’t impress upon people enough how important it is to buy face masks from small independent (businesses) right now because this is how they’re staying alive.”
Witt said different masks fit different lifestyles: some are more secure, while others are more flexible and weigh less. Everyone should have five to 10 face masks, she said, so they can pick a mask that best matches their activity. For a trip to the grocery store, a more secure mask might make sense, she said. But if someone is just running in and out of somewhere, she suggested they might want a “quick and easy” mask.
For Witt, a mask is an accessory that can make a person feel cute or powerful, and then this mask is no different from a necklace that matches the outfit.
“I think it’s really important that we get comfortable with face masks and that we stop looking clinical with them,” Witt said. “It’s super important that masks don’t look scary… people can still look cool.”
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