Designer masks: The must have fashion accessory for 2020

By Janine Moodley Time of article published Jul 30, 2020

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Durban - FROM rose gold brocades and black lace, to animal prints and handcrafted pieces, masks have not only become a necessity but a fashion statement.

Even superhero and animal-inspired masks have become popular.

Online shoppers have access to a variety of unusual masks or even get their favourite designers to make them. On one online shop, you can buy masks with a puppy nose, a d

ead skull and even a face with a missing tooth.

In India, a man made headlines recently for wearing a mask made entirely of gold. Tiny holes were made to help him breathe.

Darrius Pillay, a 34-year-old professional singer of uMhlanga, started collecting masks by local and international designers such as Andre Martin, Kireshen Chetty, Khosi Nkosi and Tiamara. He also has masks by French luxury brand Chanel and high-end Italian company, Bvlgari, as well as one of his favourite superhero, Iron Man. In total, Pillay has 27 masks to choose from but he expects to add more to his collection.

“Most of my masks were designed by Kireshen Chetty, a multiple award-winning South African bespoke designer and Project Runway finalist. His Luxe Sport Airtech Range is future-forward and comfortable.

“While I do have some major brands in the collection, I am most proud of the local designer talent that is getting due credit over this period.”

Pillay said most of the designer masks were custom-made so the fit was better than a regular mask.

“And to those of us who wear glasses, it helps reduce the steaming up of our lenses.

“The attention to detail on the comfort of the straps around the ear, the tension of these straps and the weight of the masks all have a role to play in the overall comfort.”

The most he spent on a mask was R3000. Pillay purchased his first mask while travelling to the Ivory Coast via Dubai in early March.

“I recall being nervous as this (Covid-19 pandemic) was quite new for all of us and proper government protocols were still under review. I purchased a Chanel mask in Dubai. This was well before a position on masks globally was provided by the World Health Organization.”

He has a special drawer where he keeps them.

“This was in place already. I am a little pedantic with my closet so I have a few custom drawers for belts, glasses and ties. This one, however, was housing all the odds and ends and found its purpose now it seems.”

He said he did not own any unusual masks.

Of his collection, tiger prints and snow leopard prints were as bold as it got.

“When I find something that inspires me, for sure I will give it a try. I am always keen at looking at avant-garde concepts.

“The reality is, we have a serious pandemic on our hands and it is not so much about the fashion element but rather socialising the need, commitment and respect to all those around us. The more we make it relevant the more acceptable it becomes. It’s really through unity that we will get through this pandemic.”

Chetty said he began making masks three months ago.

“My first batch was for my family, which were pretty simple pleated masks. I then started receiving requests from friends and clients asking if I would be doing bespoke masks as they wanted designer masks. A lot of them had complained about how their current masks were uncomfortable and that they were not able to breathe in them.”

He said many requests had been for Marvel and DC Comics masks, and since they had to be light and breathable, he only does bespoke or couture masks on request.

Chetty has also developed a personalised sports luxe range, which is made from a durable, breathable and washable fabric. These are three-ply with a spun-bond filter inner layer and are made for comfort. He said all of his masks had been well received.

“After a few hours of launching the range, we were completely out of stock. We were inundated with back-orders and had to limit our orders to just one day in the week. We are constantly couriering masks nationwide.

“We have improved our fits and comfort levels of the masks and find that most clients order more for a third and fourth time for themselves or friends and family members.”

For this year’s Vodacom Durban July (VDJ), Chetty was busy with custom-made orders for clients.

“The Vodacom Durban July is one of the most important events in our fashion calendar and this year we experienced our very first virtual race day.

“I recently designed and created couture beaded masks for Hollywood Sportsbook for their VDJ media advert and have designed a few couture masks as my celebratory race day ensemble.”

He said the masks were locally manufactured and covered 60% of the face to keep one safe and comfortable.

“All the masks are reusable, washable and made with an enhanced filtration efficiency.

“All our masks are minimum of three-ply, with two 100% cotton outer layers with a non-woven inner filter and the sports masks have a high-quality airtech mesh layer.

“We have a press nose wire which seals off the mask as well as a nose comfort strip for extra comfort. They have an extended mouth area for easier verbal communication and prevents the mask from slipping.”

The prices of Chetty’s masks range from R20 to R110.

Nadine Pillay, the owner of Nadine Designs, said she made a few plain masks last month but her clients wanted to be safe but still look chic.

“I have many different requests. Some people want to be fancy and some prefer simple styles. I did matching masks for moms and daughters, and floral-themed masks for moms and tots.

“I also did masks with Swarovski crystals, a steampunk-inspired mask with studs, a leather piece for a 40th lockdown party, and matching masks and underwear gift sets.”

Pillay, who designs couture gowns, said masks that matched gowns were the new norm.

“People are still going ahead with weddings but they have down-scaled. Drive-through baby showers and parties are however on the rise and people are requesting masks to match their outfits.

“Each mask is made for comfort. It has the protective layers required. They have built-in vents, making it safe and high fashion with the best-quality fabrics and details.”

Pillay has since started a leather and lace range, a beaded range and a sporty chic range.

She also customises for clients to any style suited to their needs and the occasion.

For information on the masks, email or check out Instagram nadine_designs.

Chetty’s page can be accessed on Facebook, Kireshen Chetty Official, or on Instagram at @kireshenc.


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