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With the industry in crisis, designer face masks offer a source of revenue

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Fashion brands are proving to be agile in times of crisis, transforming studios into facemask production sites, creating new sources of revenue while demand for clothing has plummeted to an all-time low.

High street conglomerates and luxury brands like LVMH turned factories and laboratories into PPE and hand sanitizer production sites, having at their disposal ample resources, materials and teams to switch gears. But it is precisely the small brands and local designers who showed the greatest dexterity, using leftover fabrics or re-working existing stock to deliver face masks to their communities, all while working from home.

Many independent designers are in survival mode in the best of times, working with limited resources to get through each season. Largely dependent on wholesale, cashflow from retail sales is often the sole source of income while they develop their brand and build direct to consumer channels. As the BFC and CFDA will attest, many designers stay operational from show to show, season to season.

Masks are the new essential accessory

The pandemic has created a global demand for personal protection and facemasks are no longer an accessory unique to the Asian market. As western governments enforce mandatory masks to be worn on public transport and in gatherings, they have become an essential item that fashion businesses can produce with the same confidence as companies producing medical grade masks.

For many designers, watching from the sidelines wasn’t an option. As both the industry and local economies around them collapsed like wildfire, one way to support the world, albeit in a small way, was to provide the skills and resources they had on hand – fabric, sewing machines and production know-how.

According to Forbes, the economics of selling masks has helped weather the very uncertain storm that has defined this pandemic, providing some with uninterrupted cash flow. “We’ve sustained a revenue in our business that has been the same as a normal month of direct-to-consumer and wholesale combined,” Hanover Savas, COO and partner in The Mighty Company, an LA-based brand specializing in luxury leather outerwear, told Forbes.

And as masks become the new essential accessory, consumers are shopping for them in the same way they would shop for any other accessory, as an expression of themselves or because a certain brand has certain benefits, causing brands to respond by creating masks that speak to consumer personalities or needs, iterates Forbes.

In The Netherlands, Stay Safe Amsterdam, an initiative by Dutch designer Ailene van Elmpt and floral artist Hariatie Eleveld, mask production began when the duo wanted to show their solidarity to their community, realising they had access to locally sourced fabrics that would otherwise have been used for sampling and collections.

Elmpt and Eleveld created masks in various prints and sizes, instead of a one size fits all mould, and sold out of their first batch in just two days without so much as a marketing strategy. Now they are made to order, with a portion of proceeds being donated to impoverished communities in Indonesia.

In times of crisis, fashion is agile as much as it is doing good.

Image courtesy Stay Safe Amsterdam; article source Forbes

Face Masks