When we thought that the turbulent, farfetched whirlwind (otherwise known as the first six months of 2020) could not become any more unpredictable, we now find ourselves adapting our wardrobes for the new norms of the world. 

Its arrival in 2020 was one borne out of necessity, with the mandating of masks in situations where social distancing is not possible in countries the world over. However, the fashion world has not missed a beat, having greeted necessity with creativity and style.

The presence of face masks in recent times emerged with the purpose of course being protection and prevention – however, fashion has long courted masks with various motives. Houses such as Margiela’s signature identifiers lie with face coverings, stemming from the founder’s famously private nature having never made a public appearance through his career. Other extensions of this desire for masking identity can be seen in the styling of flowing hair in Spring/Summer 09 from the house. Other houses showing masks previous to the current trend include Comme Des Garcons Fall/Winter 2018, including soft sculptured nightmarish face forms,  utilising the entire model to convey a look and completely transforming the show from that of presenting new fashions to an exhibition of drama assisted by the extension of the concept to facial coverings.

At the beginning of the pandemic earlier in the year, Off-White were quick to jump on board with the production of branded face masks, retailing for up to $366 on some sites. This new addition to their production line sparked some outrage from the public, accusing the brand of capitalising on personal protective equipment. However, the quick uptake of the now best selling accessory of the season can be seen in fashion houses the world over.

Closer to home with legislation introduced to ensure the wearing of masks is adhered to, we know that the coming semester will see quite a different facial expression of the student population as we all adjust to the new normal and cover up. One certainty that will emerge from this transition (however long the adjustment period may last) is that individuality will not be sacrificed at the hand of this necessity. Creativity and innovation will emerge from the depths of uniformity (quite like they always have), and our campus will be no different.

The University campus will be an extraordinary location for the practicalities of the changing climate of the world to blossom into greater things. With each student bearing the coverings with the intentions of protecting both themselves and the others which the campus is shared, this form of compassion and unity will walk in parallel with the creativity and expression of each student. Traditionally mirrored in their fashion, self expression has extended now to  include this latest necessary accessory – the face mask. This form of expression is a much welcome addition to an institution long associated with the broadening of one’s personal style and being, and we’re certain UCC’s contributions to this latest fashion movement are sure to rival the likes of those being shown by the major fashion houses of the world.

We rounded up five of the most interesting styles. 

Designer Matt Sarafa based in Los Angeles has created a range of face coverings adorned with fringed rhinestones and in novelty prints such as dollar bills and leopard print and are favoured by RHOBH Kyle RichardsAll proceeds from this range go directly to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

‘Big Drip’ Crystal Face Mask pictured, $35 at thefacesoffashion.com

New York based brand SlashedByTia is another offering adorned protection, with founder Tia Adeola taking inspiration from Renaissance form and design to pay homage to the female form through the use of sheer materials which have now extended to her face mask range. 

Above available at slashedbytia.net, $45 each.

LA-based label Collina Strada have added breathtakingly extravagant masks to their eco-conscious apparels, with the purchase of one mask equating to 3 masks donated to New York Healthcare workers. Large bows, draping and vibrant patterns dominate the range.

Fashion Face Mask with Bow, $100, collinastrada.com.

Irish designers have lent their talents to protective measures too with Kildare-based designer Elaine Honey churning out bright and cheerful alternatives to medical masks. She offers a broad spectrum of patterns, colours and sizes to purchase on her website elainehoneydesigns.com, with every purchase being matched with a donation to a frontline worker or vulnerable member of society. 

Natural cotton masks in vibrant prints and colours take inspiration from Jennifer Akese-Burney’s upbringing in Ghana. The range of stunning masks can be paired with matching head wraps and scarves, meaning that style and individuality will not fall victim to protective measures. 3 piece set available at akesestylelines.com, $105. 

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