Entertainment Style From Jennifer Aniston to Off-White: The politics of the fashion face mask
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From Jennifer Aniston to Off-White: The politics of the fashion face mask

A guest is seen wearing a Chanel mask outside the Balmain show during Paris Fashion Week
Australia appears to have dodged the 'fashion face mask' trend. Photo: Getty
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One of the big trends Australia has thankfully skipped these last few months is the fashion face mask, something that is being promoted big time on the US fashion websites, from top designer styles to retro- cute versions that can be purchased on Etsy.

To our credit, Australians agreed pretty early on that taking the appropriate actions to ensure our communal health was not a partisan political statement nor an attack on our personal freedoms, so we have mostly been spared the ignominy of having to match our masks with our weekend wear.

It is astonishing to see so many Americans pushing back on the idea of wearing a mask as the corona virus cuts a deadly swathe through the country. Actress Jennifer Aniston made headlines last week when she posted a selfie on Instagram, urging her 34.5 million followers to wear a mask, even though “she understands masks are uncomfortable and inconvenient”.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I understand masks are inconvenient and uncomfortable. But don’t you feel that it’s worse that businesses are shutting down… jobs are being lost… health care workers are hitting absolute exhaustion. And so many lives have been taken by this virus because we aren’t doing enough. ⠀ ⠀ I really do believe in the basic goodness of people so I know we can all do this 🥰 BUT still, there are many people in our country refusing to take the necessary steps to flatten the curve, and keep each other safe. People seem worried about their “rights being taken away” by being asked to wear a mask. This simple and effective recommendation is being politicized at the expense of peoples’ lives. And it really shouldn’t be a debate 🙏🏼 ⠀ ⠀ If you care about human life, please… just #wearadamnmask 😷 and encourage those around you to do the same ❤️

A post shared by Jennifer Aniston (@jenniferaniston) on

It’s a bit of a “least you can do” message of basic common sense to send at this point, and it’s horrifying to think that capitalism had to step in and offer pricey masks from brands such as Supreme, Off-White (about $290) and Prabal Gurung ( $70) to make the idea of staying alive and not infecting others palatable.

An Off-White face mask will set you back nearly $300.

Applauding celebrities who wear a face mask in a country that is showing single-day infection numbers of more than 50,000 people is bizarre, but clearly that’s what it takes when a venal President has set a tone that makes not contracting a deadly virus a PC choice.

Amidst this turbulent year and in the several years leading up to it, the fashion world has had to become political on so many levels. The very necessary conversations around inclusion were already being had, as well as diversity, sizeism and ageism. Climate change and sustainability, the fair and ethical treatment of garment workers, and the traceability of products, all of these factors have come under the microscope as we reconsider at what sort of consumers we should be.

From all indicators, we may not be spending as recklessly as we did before.

The industry has certainly taken a huge hit during the corona virus shutdown, but trying to discount your way out of recession is not a feasible long-term plan. Fashion has to find new ways to be relevant, and piles of tizzy dresses to be worn on a Friday night and thrown away is not that.

Expect an increase in rally-ready athleisure clothing emblazoned with protest slogans, the rise of politicised designer collections, and yes, probably branded face masks, which are not only emblematic of a dangerous pandemic but also a raised consciousness that things are not right with the world.

There is some irony in the fact that just as designers were talking about calling a halt to producing four collections a year, and ditching their pre-fall and cruise collections, the ongoing threat of coronavirus has almost written off the summer holiday season anyway. A reminder we all need to do better. Thanks, Jen.