Settle in—it looks like the face mask might just be the most enduring fashion trend of 2020. Unlike in America, there hasn’t been much debate in Singapore over the ethics and practicality of wearing a mask. Even before the practice was made mandatory in April, most were already traversing the streets with the help of a mask (home made or otherwise) looped around their ears. And widespread mask use has shown to be a huge help in flattening a country’s curve internationally, especially given that many of those who are infected will be asymptomatic and will never know it.
The physical barrier created by a good-quality mask is what prevents the large droplets of a cough or a sneeze from spreading to other people, but, depending on the material, it can also be effective in filtering smaller aerosol particles. Studies have begun to show that airborne transmission is a far more likely culprit than surface contact (or “fomite” transmission) when it comes to the spread of the coronavirus. That doesn’t mean you should stop washing your hands, of course. But maybe bleaching your mail should come second to investing in a few excellently-made masks.
There are plenty of resources online that will patiently walk you through the step-by-step instructions necessary to sew your own mask, like the tutorial from Collina Strada’s Hillary Taymour. Other designers have pitched in, as well: Christian Siriano and Karla Colletto, for example, were early entrants to the effort to turn their factories towards mask-making. Fendi, Palm Angels, and Marine Serr are just some of the other brands that have since joined them.
However, Singaporeans need not look overseas to American brands when it comes to making an ethical and stylish choice for a face covering. Leaving the N95 masks to the professionals on the frontlines who need them, there’s still a plethora of local designers who will ensure you have a mask to keep yourself and others safe. What’s more, many of them are giving back to the community through the sale of their patterned face masks as well, donating funds or resources to frontline workers.
From batik patterns to hand-stitched flowers to washed silk material that will ward off that troublesome maskne, here are just a few of the best local designers helping to keep us all safe.
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Local artist Dawn Bey, prior to the quarantine, was known primarily for her fantastical, tie-dye scarves and skirts. She’s since transitioned her talent towards designing face masks, and releases her creations in limited collections every few weeks. Profits will be split between two funds that aid and provide relief for migrant workers.
$12 per mask; available at Minor Miracles
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Lisa Von Tang
Billing itself as a “fashionable choice for conscientious humans,” the LVT face mask comes in sixteen shades of silks, polysilks, and upcycled linens. A padded nose bridge added to the top of the mask ensures designer shaping to fit the contours of your face. Every purchase also ensures a donation of five surgical masks to a Singaporean PPE redistribution charity.
Starts at $70 per mask; available at Lisa Von Tang
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The Sutajio’s handmade masks are made from imported cotton; many of them are also inlaid with a premium drifit lining that is sweat wicking and highly breathable. The brand also has a ‘charity of the month’ setup where 10% of profits go to a chosen fund. September’s is the mental health organization My Safe Sphere.
$22 (Core Collection) and $29 (Handcrafted Collection) per mask; available at The Sutajio
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Jo Kilda offers a variety of masks made of silk, cotton, and lace. A number of the brand’s chiffon masks also come as a coordinated set with matching scrunchies. Gentle on the skin, the company’s mask promises hydration over time.
Starts at $45 per mask; available at Jo Kilda
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Coming in five colors, this sleek and chic mask is a lightweight covering that works overtime. Its outer layer is a silk polyester that allows maximum breathability, with a cotton inner lining that is sweat-absorbant. Each mask also comes with a complimentary filter that you can insert for greater protection.
$22 per mask; available at The Form
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My Sweet Scarlett
The three-ply, hand-embroidered mask designed by founder Marina Setiawan and sewn by two local artisans, My Sweet Scarlett’s selection comes in three sizes. For an extra fee, you can also get your mask with your name or initials stitched into the fabric.
Starts at $18 per mask; available at My Sweet Scarlett
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Made of mulberry silk that promises anti-aging and a chance to minimise maskne, White Trousseau’s gentle mask comes with adjustable ear loops and a thin nose-bridge clasp for a more comfortable fit. Coming in eight different colours, each mask is also certified UPF 50+ with 99% UV protection, and can be worn all day without staining or chafing.
$32 per mask (or as a bundle of 8 for $188); available at White Trousseau
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Binary Style can barely keep up with the demand for their immensely popular patterned mask lineup, but lucky shoppers with nimble enough fingers might be able to add a few to their carts. Showcasing Singapore’s flora (nutmeg and butterfly pea flowers) and fauna (hornbills and orioles), as well as the city’s more urban aspects (Tiong Bahru and Peranakan shophouses), a fifth of profits will be donated to Transient Workers Count Too.
$15 per mask; available at Binary Style
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An alum of the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague and known for her macabre, graceful designs, Rachel Cheong has long been an aficionado of lace, gingham, and latex. That fantasy element that imbues all of her fashion designs has apparently been bottled and injected into her most recent item, Closet Children’s line of made-to-order face masks. All of them are stitched primarily out of silk, and are backed with cotton, for a more comfortable feel.
Starts at $28 per mask; available at Closet Children
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Nominally a children’s clothing company, Maison Q now makes bright, patterned face masks in both adult and children’s sizes. An in-house initiative, Masks for Good was recently launched by the label Maison Q in order to raise funds for Daughters of Tomorrow, a fund that supports Singaporean women from low-income backgrounds towards financial independence.
Starts at $16 per mask; available at Maison Q