You cannot deny that COVID-19 has been a crisis that has influenced change in the fashion industry. It has encouraged brands to pivot and become creative problem solvers. With innovation leading the way, it has been inspiring to observe the fashion industry rising to the challenge and engaging in new activities like producing protective gear, gowns, and other supplies for hospitals.
PPE masks have a newfound place in our lives. With masks fated to become a new part of our everyday wardrobe, more and more forward-thinking brands and designers are mobilizing to help produce essential supplies for health providers and the general public. By developing an entirely new revenue stream, fashion businesses adopt modern wartime-esque efforts and take the idea of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to another level.
Designing to Minimize the Spread of the Virus
It is not only well-known fashion companies like Dior, Saint Laurent, and Balenciaga swapping couture for PPE gear, giving up short-term profits. Other businesses are joining the fight against COVID-19 and demonstrating that “non-essential” companies can change their business model and transform into PPE manufacturers and providers.
As post-pandemic style continues to take shape, designers like RJ Santos, the founder of Randolf Clothing, has already anticipated the need for functional and stylish protective clothing. He shared in a recent interview with CNN Philippines: “We’re planning to release PPE‐inspired outerwear soon that’s still true to what our brand is.” For Santos, PPE will be part of our everyday wear. Adding: “There’s no time to dwell on canceled plans!”
Contributing to the stockpile of PPE for health-care workers has never been so in vogue as it is today. Experts like Louis Vuitton’s Virgil Abloh are turning Personal Protective Equipment like masks into must-have accessories. Also, innovators like FABRIC fashion incubator co-founder, Angela Johnson, make sustainable medical gowns that can be washed 100 times.
Capitalizing on what has become an everyday reality, trends monitor, the Lyst Index, recently confirmed that face masks had become the most coveted style accessory in the world. “It’s been nice to create something that serves a purpose but also has a fashionable aspect to it. I felt a lot better about being able to sell a utilitarian product in the midst of a crisis in a way that benefited other people,” said Canadian designer Paul Hardy to CTV News.
Adapting and effectively curbing the pandemic’s long-term impacts, some designers like Yi Fei Chen have come up with a clear face mask that allows for the wearer to continue to interact with face-recognition technologies like unlocking your iPhone. Providing a barrier to prevent the spread of any viral droplets, Chen has also made sure that the mask offers transparency so facial expressions can be visible.
Another designer turn PPE provider is Shanghai-based designer Fulden Dehneli. Designing to minimize the spread of the virus, she has re-imagined a hand sanitizer becoming part of our everyday wardrobe in the shape of a necklace or bracelet. “The accessory can be deployed to fight back against viruses like a sword,” explained Dehneli. As the fashion industry continues to think outside of the box, I look forward to designers and brands not only learning how to produce PPE but also figuring out how they can continue to redesign Personal Protective Equipment products to blend into our wardrobe easily.