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How To Make Mask A Part Of You (Not An Alien On Your Face)

When you go out for essential business these days - during India's lockdown - what type of mask do you wear?

Many brands have started promoting cool/beautiful masks with various cloth.
You might be checking some mask designs for the time you meet your friends again (finally!) and go to the office. You might be even searching for tutorials "how to make mask".

Due to the pandemic of Coronavirus aka COVID-19, mask has inevitably broken into the outfit of the people all over the world. It's plopped down on our face and won’t go away anytime soon.
I considered how we want to deal with masks.

East Asia Where Mask Had Been A Fashion Item

Recently, I had a nice opportunity to talk about masks with Mr. Joe Ikareth who’s running a brand of the same name making beautiful and functional clothes.
He said that how East Asian youth wear masks in their street fashion is really cool.

Yes, you can find lots of street snaps from Japan or South Korea like below. Mask is one of the elements in their outfit to express themselves.
Though it’s a bit old data, in 2011 when someone interviewed 100 people in Shibuya, Tokyo, 30% of them were wearing masks for fashion, not for illness.

Tokyo street fashion with a mask - Kimono boy

Tokyo street fashion with a mask - Lolita girl

Tokyo street fashion with a mask - stylish black

Tokyo street fashion with a mask - futuristic

All these street snaps were taken way before Coronavirus pandemic.

Looking at the mask style images from Tokyo streets, I felt that some are weakening the humanness with a mask to look more like some imaginary character.

Among the old and new superheroes in Japanese Manga, cartoons and TV Anime, there are a lot of characters who cover their face with a mask. The admiration for them might be imprinted deep in Japanese people’s mind? Who knows...

Gekko Kamen


Hatake Kakashi from the comic Naruto

I didn’t know that there’s even an event called Tokyo Mask Festival. Seems that their masks are rather extensive ones covering entire face/head, though.

In Japan, I guess people are familiar with masks originally.
Every winter, many people wear a mask whenever they feel “slightly cold-ish”, so that they don’t infect others and to avoid getting infected.
Also, around 30-40% of the population suffer from pollen allergy every spring (March - April). They can’t live without masks.

In the world outside East Asia, it seems that rappers started wearing masks for fashion in recent years. But still “mask as a fashion item” is not as popular as in East Asia. People seldom wear masks except for those who must wear one for their work. ...Until this pandemic, of course.

Ayo and Teo with masks

Billie Eilish with a mask at Grammy Awards



Purposes Except For Fashion Or Infection Prevention

If you check MIRCHI KOMACHI’s Instagram account often (thank you!!), you might have seen me making some prototypes of mask before India’s lockdown. You might have also seen me saying “it’s not for the stupid virus!”.
What I was making was the bonus mask attached to our new item (we haven't published it till now). The purpose of the mask was to wear at protest meetings to protect ones' identities.

In Hong Kong, when their protest movement was vigorous, all the protesters were wearing masks (even gas masks). It was to protect themselves from tear gas and to avoid getting their identities revealed. Hong Kong authorities hurriedly made an anti-mask law, but the protesters were ignoring the law together. 

protesters in Hong Kong

What about in India? Not many people in the protest meetings wore a mask before the pandemic, I guess.
But people in Delhi had been familiar with masks, weren’t they? ... No no, I don’t mean the mob who broke into JNU with their faces covered with a scarf. I mean, as protection for air pollution. Yes, mask has been an item for the dwellers in the heavily-polluted cities like Delhi or Beijing to protect themselves.

Priyanka Chopra wearing a mask to protect from air pollution

How To Make Mask A Part Of You (Not An Alien On Your Face)

Even after the lockdown, the possibility of infection remains wildly. For many months, we'd need to wear a mask when we step out. Mask would be a part of the outfit of everyone all over the world, like shoes or bag. If (IF!!) 22nd Century comes peacefully, mask would go down in fashion history as an iconic item in the early 21st Century.

What we’re talking about is the mask compulsory to wear to protect our body, not something we “choose to” wear as fashion.
It’s different from the protective gears in sports. It doesn’t tell your identity like some religious items. It’s more mandatory than specs. 
I think the category is similar to the sling to hold a broken arm, or the eyepatch to protect an injured/ill eye (did you know that eyepatch is also used as a fashion item in Japanese street fashion?).

But personally, having our style fixed by an item we involuntarily wear is really mortifying. Don't you feel so?
To remove the “forced” vibe, they need some drastic revamp. Haha, reminds me of my junior high school days. We students tried all sorts of ways to alter the school uniform we were forced to wear.

Hiroko Yakushimaru from the film Sailor Suit and Machine Gun

Here, one thing I’d like to suggest - why don’t we stop getting driven to purchase “trend” which mega companies want to sell, like in pre-Corona era, like in the full-blown capitalism world?

One of MIRCHI KOMACHI’s missions is to help each womxn to design their own life as they like.
As such brand, our suggestion is to make one’s own mask design with one’s full self-expression, or even dreams and wishes and messages. The concept might be like that of T-shirts'?

It’s super cool to doodle or paint on a plain mask.
Embroidery is also cool, of course.
You can make homemade masks matching your own wardrobe (it’s only you who can do it).
You can upcycle old clothes, even patchworking.
Since the mask itself should be easily-washable, maybe making something like a broach to attach to washable masks, and express yourself a lot in this broach aka art piece?

I feel, the more a mask tries hard to pretend “it’s not a mask... but a fashionable scarf...”, the uglier it looks. It’s impossible to weaken the impression of a mask when it’s covering a major part of our face.
Then, I thought, it’s got to be rather, “Look I assert! I express who I am with it! This is ME this is how I do!”

Tokyo street fashion with a mask


Another suggestion is to share and help one another.
No hoarding masks, but make sure everyone else has one. When you meet some unknown person who doesn’t have a mask, share one.
Because, this Coronavirus pandemic taught us that, only you wearing a mask doesn’t make you safe. Safety is created only when everybody is safe.
Here comes an era where you can’t win if you’re fighting alone. We fight together.

Also, make meaningful purchases. If you buy a mask, buy from small makers or those who sell masks to collect fund for the purpose you want to support. Intentionally invest the people you want to support rather than making the CEOs of mega companies ridiculously rich (while their staff are working without loo breaks!).

I think these would surely be the values in post-Corona era.

I would appreciate if you could share your idea or plan for the masks you'll wear, in the Comment section below.
Stay safe!

Bonus Video

Taiwan is one of the countries who tackled COVID-19 most quickly and effectively. After they settled their domestic situation manageable, they even donated millions of masks to the virus-hit countries including Japan.
This video is about their heartwarming episode on pink masks.
They set certain rules for purchasing masks so that nobody can hoard masks. Then, people didn’t have choices of the colour of the mask they got. Some small boys hesitated to wear a mask of pink colour being worried of getting bullied as girlish.
When the ministers got to know about this fear, they started wearing pink masks and told the boys that there’s nothing wrong for males to wear pink, actually there’s no girls’ colours and boys’ colours. Then many common men joined and spread the message on social media. 

Do you remember Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage last year? Awesome (and jealous!) to see a government in the “right” direction for the “right” future.



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