Though pictures of Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton branded masks proliferate on social media, these have been counterfeit designs. Bluechip fashion houses have been slow to sell face coverings as fashion, mindful of the reputational risk posed by appearing to profit from the crisis, or glamorise it.
The Burberry face mask costs £90, is produced using excess fabric, and is available in the brand’s signature beige check, as well as in pale blue.
Many smaller fashion brands have launched not-for-profit face coverings. In one charity initiative British designers including Halpern, Julien Macdonald, Liam Hodges, Mulberry, Raeburn and Rixo designed masks, with 100% of profits going to charity.
A few brands, including Marine Serre and Off-White, produced face coverings as fashion even before the pandemic.
Masks have also provided an income stream for a struggling fashion industry during the crisis, often at the small, homespun, craft-based end of the business.
This month the online craft marketplace Etsy announced face covering sales of $346m (£264m) in the past three months, representing 14% of all business. Any hint of a large, powerful brand capitalising on the crisis, however – a charge levelled at Kim Kardashian, Asos and Boohoo to name a few – has been met with opprobrium.
The painstakingly outlined credentials of the Burberry face covering, which are listed on its website, reflect the category’s status as a lightning rod for controversy. The masks are sustainably produced, the site states, with 20% of the selling price going to the Burberry Foundation Covid-19 Community Fund – which was established in April, soon after Burberry started producing and delivering personal protective equipment for the NHS. The face covering is also “enhanced with an antimicrobial technology”, a burgeoning fabric trend that has been gaining traction during the pandemic.