Face coverings: Retailers adapt for health and fashion

Retailers and designers are answering the call for face masks that are functional and stylish

As more and more cities and states institute mask requirements—and retailers join in—retailers have responded to the demand for face coverings. In the earliest days of the pandemic, consumers were told to leave medical grade masks to healthcare workers and others who needed them for their jobs. That led to everyone with a needle and fabric to launch their own versions. A quick search on Etsy.com shows more than 1.3 million options.

Now, retailers and designers of all sorts are jumping in to mass produce these highly sought after offerings. Here are a few of the latest.

NRF calls on retailers to set nationwide mask policy

Check out our full press release here.

For the stylish

If you have to wear a mask, why not make a statement? Designer Christian Siriano has created everything from the little black face mask ($38) to a pearl-encrusted mask ($465). Buy a mask and not only get a fashionable product, but also donate a mask to a frontline worker.

Blanka Boutique, meanwhile, brings a little bling to the trend, with sequined face masks ($38) and attached face covering chains ($68). The latter not only adds a chic detail but allows the wearer to have a contactless removal process. No need to hold that dirty mask in your hands when it can dangle from the chain.

For the sports enthusiast

Under Armour, like so many others, jumped into mask making to aid healthcare organizations in the early days of the pandemic. The company made and distributed millions of its origami masks. These items did not require sewing and could be produced quickly en masse.  Then, the company’s founder recognized that athletes needed something too. The UA Sportsmask went through 13 iterations before the company had a product to launch. Retailing for $30 at the company’s website, it includes three layers designed for better airflow and cooling technology. Additional colors are coming soon, as is global distribution, the company says.

For the marketer

Why wear a mask with someone else’s logo? Vistaprint has launched its own mask and offers the opportunity to personalize it. As with other Vistaprint products, customers only need to upload a logo; Vistaprint takes care of the rest. Face coverings are the must-have accessories of spring, summer and fall 2020.

Celebrities endorsing mask-wearing

To help encourage those resistant to wearing a mask, many celebrities are speaking out. A new public service campaign that urges Americans to don masks features star power like Morgan Freeman.

Freeman is joined by Jeffrey Wright in the first of two spots in the “Mask Up America” campaign. The public service slots were directed by Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and produced by Tribeca Enterprise’s Jane Rosenthal. Future spots will include voiceovers by Robert De Niro, Kaitlyn Dever, Jamie Foxx, John Leguizamo, Anthony Mackie, Rosie Perez and Ellen Pompeo.

The campaign is the brainchild of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who wants his experience at the forefront of the pandemic to serve as a warning to the rest of the country. “We want to be sure all Americans know what we know here – that it is essential to wear a mask in order to protect one another,” Cuomo says in a statement. “We can only beat this virus if we are united as one, not divided by ideology or politics.”

In a statement last week, NRF encouraged all retailers to adopt a nationwide mask policy in order to help protect communities across the country. “The health and safety of associates and customers is retailers' number one priority and wearing a face covering or mask is scientifically proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” the statement read.

While some may find them inconvenient, the face covering is here for the foreseeable future. The most effective versions, whether homemade or purchased, according to a study by Wake Forest University use two layers of high-quality, heavyweight “quilter’s cotton” with a 180 or higher thread count. The tighter the weave the better. A double layer mask with a cotton outer layer and inner layer of flannel also did well in the tests.

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