'There's Definitely Rapid Growth': The Brands Cashing In On 'Coronavirus Chic'
When one man's outbreak is another man's opportunity.
When the spread of coronavirus aligned with the Fall/Winter 2020 Fashion Month, it wreaked havoc across events in Paris and Milan.
The threat has caused major disruption to every part of the fashion festival's framework, from stock distribution, show cancellations, and even the sacred greeting that is the air kiss.
Branded goodie bags that once held hand cream soon held hand sanitiser.
While the notion of impending doom sends the average person to canned goods aisle of the supermarket, the fashion industry has their own way of dealing with the virus -- pandemic, but make it fashion.
Street stylists strutted between shows in leather face masks emblazoned with Channel logos.
Celebrities took their selfies, trading lip fillers for air filters.
A number of masks walked their way down the catwalks of some of the weeks' most illustrious shows. French designer, Marine Serre, has been sending models down runways in face masks for years.
Last year, Vogue called her designs "utilitarian" and "contemporary". How prophetic those words have become.
Within what felt like only a matter or moments, the fashion world took an outbreak, and turned it into an accessory. To a skeptic, it sounds like cashing in on a crisis. But to a designer, it sounds like a good old fashioned case of supply and demand.
For Australian Maddy Scarf, a fashionable face mask is not all too different from a nice pair of shoes or a handbag.
"It's taking a commodity and turning it into a fashion accessory," she told 10 daily. "It's combining the use of function and fashion."
Maddy is the founder of TECMASK, a Sydney-based business that designs and distributes "fashionable and stylish" face masks with a PM2.5 filter. The disposable masks come in a variety of colours and patterns and retail for $19.99 per pack of five.
Maddy launched the brand in 2015 in Japan. Success came quickly, largely driven by the Asian market's pre-existing familiarity with face masks as an everyday accessory.
A new challenge came in 2018, when TECMASK entered the Australian market -- a country considerably more apprehensive to embrace the face mask. That was, of course, until coronavirus came to town.
There's no denial that when the coronavirus hit, there was definitely rapid growth there.
"A number of retailers have reached out wanting to stock our product. We're now in over 300 retailers across Australia and New Zealand," Maddy said of the virus' impact on her business.
Over the last few months, air purifiers and face masks replaced burnt shoulders and thong tans as hallmarks of the Australian summer.
Barely a season ago, a face mask on an Australian was a rare sight. Today, given the bushfire smoke and the coronavirus, they're hardly worth a second look.
Turning a pandemic and a crisis into an opportunity to accessorise feels every bit as dystopian as it does simply practical.
"We're trying to protect their health," Maddy told 10 daily. "Being able to help people in a time of need is what we enjoy doing."
By making masks fashionable, it's also making them palatable -- easing us into embracing precaution. Australian medical authorities have advised, however, that masks are not necessary for the Australian general public.
According to the nation's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy, "the only people who should wear masks in relation to this virus are those who are unwell and have had a relevant travel history."
Health practitioners and medical staff are being urged by Australian authorities to wear masks when dealing with those with suspected coronavirus.
As some Australians debate whether face masks are even necessary, others are questioning whether they should buy theirs in Tiffany blue or millennial pink.
As the coronavirus continues to sweep headlines and surpass borders, there is not a lot of surety at this time. What is certain though, is that where there is a commodity, there's a way to make it Insta-worthy.
Featured image: Instagram
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