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On trend: The designer mask

The big hot topic that’s still (obviously) on everyone’s mind is the pandemic. Here at the studio, we’re all back in full swing and creating better brands for our clients but while nothing has changed on that front, everything around us is different.

The news is chock full of new guidelines and rules, the latest offers from the government and whispers of taxes, changes and new policies. A lot of major players in big industries have pivoted to new business offerings and it’s a sign of the times to become adaptable in the face of uncertainty. 

As Ben so rightly said in his last post, the need for brands to think, adapt and react creatively to the situation has never been so important. Now, a few months down the line, we’ve had a look at one of the biggest trends that has appeared – face masks. Why have so many businesses focused on this unforeseeable market trend and how can this model be used as inspiration for future business decisions?

Face masks in the construction industry were never going to be a new thing. Vital for the health and safety for workers, it’s now mandatory for us to wear one in an enclosed public space. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, before the law came into place, face mask sales were up 846% and DIY retailers were turning people away – and this was back in February. Stocks of dust masks not fit for medical use were depleted with buyers coming in and clearing the shelves, pre-empting the surge in virus protection. Reports of ‘innovation’ hit the headlines as people were seen wearing bags, snorkels and buckets in an attempt to draw an advantage over contracting COVID-19.

The design of facemasks has become a talking point that no one saw coming. If we remove the technical details here, ignoring the filters and materials, the special fibres and vents, the actual design and pattern of the mask is a certain upward trend. Leaving the surgical and technical masks for the healthcare professionals, the reusable fabric face mask has become the most accessible, fashionable and sustainable option.

Making a fashionable mask certainly wasn’t on anybody’s trend list pre 2020, and yet Prada and Gucci have started manufacturing them. Christian Siriano, a US fashion designer, pivoted his entire fashion house into a mask-making enterprise.

The mask taps into our consumeristic tendencies – a tangible object we can wear to protect ourselves and reduce a small amount of that fear we had during the beginning of the outbreak, where we could only hide away in our homes.

Design has always been a subject of self expression, and face masks will be no different. Despite not being a fashionable accessory, it’s clear it will become one. If you have to wear such an obvious covering, it’s no surprise that people will design them to suit and no wonder so many businesses have jumped on the trend.

No matter what happens next, it’s clear that masks are here to stay. Previously, tourists might be stared at for wearing a mask in our country. But now, masks will no longer be noticed as you walk down the high street wearing one of your own, merely a commonplace garment, like a new hat or pair of shoes. Businesses will start to innovate – to design masks that people want and not just need. A limited edition design by a big fashion house, a quirky pattern sold in droves in a big high street retailer. Perhaps a good way to recoup costs that were lost during lockdown, but perhaps a questionable business avenue as they profit from what is essentially, a piece of PPE. Etsy, the online handmade marketplace, saw a huge rise in the search for masks on their site, with people searching for masks at an average of 9 times per second. During two days in April, this totalled more than 2 million searches.

The public will no doubt have sides for and against the topic of facemasks, as the current lauders of masks have been wearing one pre-government announcement, while the critics still refuse them. It will be an interesting one, however, to watch how the market changes. As the designers take more risks and the sector no doubt grows, masks will become an everyday bag item. Keys, wallet, phone, facemask? Check, check, check and check.

While some businesses may have made a 180 pivot to start producing facemasks and change their whole business model, it’s unlikely and unwise for everyone to switch focus just to that. Masks will still be a trending subject for many months to come, but it’s a good opportunity and reminder to always be reactive. Designing facemasks may not be a business objective, but a great reminder to be ready and raring to go with fresh new ideas.

Reactive business strategies are key to staying on top after an unprecedented event, but switching to a proactive model is always a good tack. Encourage innovation and motivate employees to speak up with their ideas. Keep an eye on competitors and pounce on new opportunities. 

Health and safety is key in the construction industry – but is there any additional offering you can add for your customers during a time where extra caution is needed? If Brewdog can switch to becoming an approved NHS supplier for hand sanitiser instead of their history of making beer, it’s clear that change is possible while simultaneously improving your reputation or brand. 

Find new opportunities and review your strategies to navigate this crazy year. Thinking outside the box is one of The Canopy’s core beliefs, and our team of curious creatives are ready to help. 

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