From a hastily re-purposed scarf to designer pieces strung with pearls, these essentials have evolved into popular, stylish accessories

A year ago, they were cobbled together from re-purposed scarves and handkerchiefs. Now, masks have evolved into stylish, expressive accessories

Last year, with the news of COVID-19 breaking, all we could think of was how to stock up on masks and hand sanitisers. Online shoppers scoured the net for them. Medical stores ran low on stock. When the demand outstripped supply, people resorted to stitching their own, using everything from handkerchiefs to socks.

This pandemic-approved accessory is now as important as the shoe or the handbag one carries. An added bonus: masks encourage minimal make-up, and let you get away with not having to ‘smile for courtesy sake.’

We had so many questions. N95 or antiviral? Three-ply or two? Cloth or disposable?

As we head to the first lockdown anniversary, we realise masks have evolved into an unexpected fashion staple. Fashion designers are leaving no stone unturned to use masks as a medium of their expression.

Designers are making masks to support weavers and to showcase the rich Indian handlooms. Designer Priyanka Modi director of AMPM has created a collection of snug textured patterned masks with angular lines, priced between ₹1,250 to ₹2,950.

WiseGuise, a Los Angeles-based label has a 4-in-1 mask. It is intelligently-designed to be a bracelet, neckband or headband when it is not covering your face.

A few celebrities are also using masks to make political statements. Lily Singh flaunted ‘I stand with farmers’ on her mask as she walked the red carpet for the Grammys this year.

From indie designers to international luxury brands, everyone is selling masks. From casual wear to black tie events, designers have one for every occasion. London-based Henry Poole & Co, which created the world’s first tuxedo in 1865 for the Prince of Wales, Edward VII, has designed a mask that complements suits. Available in pleated or plain sports version, they are made with coloured elastic in breathable, cotton-based silica. The bespoke tailors are also accepting masks-to-order to match an existing suit or jacket.

Upping the mask ante is Orna and Isaac Levy, an Israeli jewellery brand that custom made a mask in 18k gold with 3,600 diamonds for a Chinese client.

Read more| Homegrown affordable masks across India

Demand leads to supply as people find inventive ways to express themselves via, an accessory that covers most of their face. Today, a quick online search for masks will throw up transparent masks, anti-fog versions and masks embellished with pearls, sequins and even precious gems for parties.

From the mask, another range of accessories began to evolve about six months ago: jewelled lanyards. From evil eye beads to pearls, you name it and an online search will find it for you.

Clearly, masks are now being designed for specific activities and ages. Popular sports apparel brands have introduced masks for runners. For example, Underarmour’s face mask for runners made with Iso chill material wicks off sweat and its UV protection coating claims to protect the face from sun burn.

Luxury brands are not far behind. From silk, diamonds to crystals, masks by international designer brands like Gucci, Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Yvel among others, offer mind-boggling options. If you have about $2,50,000 to spare, a Jacob & Co, diamond face mask could be yours.

Make a fashion statement with your mask

Closer home, Manish Malhotra created an entire line that pays tribute to Bollywood. Anavila’s all-natural linen masks are made from excess fabric left over at her unit. Labels like Payal Singhal, Saundh and Harleen Kaur have come up with minimal versions of embellished pieces in neutral and bright hues.

And from the looks of it: masks are just going to keep getting more extravagant and inventive.

Case in point: Beyonce’s gravity defying mask without straps. So pick your choice and make it a part of your style statement.

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