These face masks don’t just look good, they’re saving lives. And they’re going to become more widespread as air pollution worsens.
Seeing someone in London wearing an air pollution mask used to be a rare sight – something we dismissed as an extreme reaction by the overly-cautious or a quirky habit brought over by those visiting the UK from extremely polluted cities in Asia. But now, as the frightening levels of air pollution in major cities across the world are being exposed in the media, it seems that those zealots and tourists were right all along. And designers are catching on with a growing number of air pollution masks hitting the market that have a strong focus on fashion alongside functionality.
Think back to the first time you saw Wang Zhijun’s air pollution mask fashioned from a pair of adidas YEEZY Boosts. Picked up on by various ‘hype’ platforms and lauded as an innovative fashion accessory, the mask initially looked like a frivolous exercise in what you could do with a sneaker. On closer inspection, however, Zhijun’s masks, made from a range of coveted kicks, are serious tools for battling pollution. The designer turned to repurposing sneakers to ensure that his designs were breathable and comfortable, whilst also giving a nod to fashion. That nod to fashion meant Zhijun’s designs picked up heat online and saw the issue of air pollution being discussed by hugely popular publications that might not otherwise cover the topic.
Zhijun’s masks may be the most extreme example of fashion/function, but they’re by no means alone – there are heaps of brands straddling this fashion-forward middle ground and creating masks that take aesthetics into account. Freka, a British brand whose masks exhibit a minimalistic look, is a notable example, as is Swedish company Airinum, which just released the M90, an “urban breathing mask”. The M90 not only protects wearers from poisonous smog, it also features a typically sleek, utilitarian Scandinavian design coupled with a bold neon camo print – bang on trend what with camouflage’s recent revival.
By creating masks that are in tune with what’s going on in the world of fashion, these designers, and others, are not only highlighting the problem of pollution, they’re also making products like these more accessible and acceptable. That can only be a good thing for those of us living in cities with major air pollution problems (remember London smashed emissions forecasts for 2017 just days into January) who may have to start thinking seriously about investing in protective masks in the near future.
There is a new future in air pollution face mask use and trends. Innovative companies like Vogmask and Cambridge Mask are providing the highest level of pollution protection in a sensibly cool look. We have the choice. We can each choose to breathe clean air.
The global drama of decreasing air quality across Europe, India, and Asia is not going to change quickly. Governments and global environmental activists are working hard to solve the problems that produce high levels of air pollution but finding solutions are still decades away for most highly populated urban cities.