PARIS

The coronavirus pandemic has made the face mask a staple of our everyday wardrobe; what was once reserved for surgeons and laborers is now an item we don as frequently as our shoes and shirt.

Now that they have gone mainstream, cloth masks are being designed in a variety of patterns and colors. In many circles — particularly the more style-minded — the mask has become more of a chic accessory than a simple covering. The most notable trend in 2020 may turn out to be face fashion rather than the next chic handbag.

Fashion designer Nicole Miller quickly took to making masks at the beginning of the pandemic. The designer realized the need was great, so she brought one of her sewing machines home and started in on a batch.

“I made them initially for our stores and friends. When everyone started to want them, I had my cutter come in and cut masks and the sewers would come in and pick up the work and sew them at home,” she told Anadolu Agency. “We have used vintage fabric, collection, prints, tie-and-dye. I don’t believe in the throw-away kind other than when you are in a pinch. They are fine for health care workers, but quite honestly, those aqua masks look horrible!”

Miller, who has been a staple of the New York fashion scene for decades and has many international clientele, put time and effort into the designs, which now sell on her website and in her namesake stores. Each mask has a nose wire, soft elastic, and a pocket for a filter. Various designs have been made to match items of clothing in her collections.

“Our motto is ‘Stay Safe and Stay Chic!'” Miller says with her characteristic verve. “Everyone in New York wears a mask, and I think that is why the virus has dropped dramatically here. Everyone is very serious about their masks. You cannot go into a store without one.”

Known for her impeccable sense of style, Louise Camuto has assimilated the mask into her wardrobe. As a creative and brand advisor and the former chief creative officer at Vince Camuto, adding a new item to her closet is easy.

“I do like to wear a mask that goes with what I am wearing. I’ve bought many styles this summer — florals, which can be very versatile as they have multiple colors, a fun monkey print, a light blue stripe, a navy with anchors, black of course and several in hot colors like hot fuchsia, the gushiest red, bright green, and yellow, which has been a big trend color this summer.”

“I even have one that says “DON’T FORGET TO KISS.”

Camuto says she prefers not to wear the surgical masks, since they don’t offer as much protection as cloth ones, where the thicker the fabric, the better the protection.

And traveling presents even more of a challenge.

“At times when I feel there may be more trial of exposure as on the airplane, I wear a surgical mask under the fashion mask for extra coverage,” Camuto told Anadolu Agency.

Bettina Zilkha, who is a fashion and lifestyle writer for Forbes as well as other publications, is widely recognized in Manhattan social circles for her great taste and fashion sense. For her, masks are an everyday piece as well, and she likes to mix it up.

“I prefer the disposable paper masks. But sometimes, if I want to be a little fancy, I will wear my Nicole Miller masks. Nicole started making them at the very beginning. They are really beautiful and fun,” said Zilkha, who is friends with the designer.

“It makes me really happy to wear masks made by my good friend. I got them as soon as she started making them!”

Fashion designer Alvin Valley jumped on the bandwagon early on too, producing his own masks that he gives away at his shop in Southampton, New York. Known as “The King of Pants” among the fashion cognoscenti for his masterfully made trousers, Valley maintains a collection of ready-to-wear pieces of all kinds as well, to which he has added face coverings.

“I make them in different prints, some of yardage that I’ve saved from cuts of other products. I believe that the mask is another opportunity to create a different and individualized look while at the same time staying healthy and safe.”

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