Vogue Runway’s critics covered over 250 collections during a summer of digital fashion weeks. Some were IRL events, like Etro and Jacquemus, others were in-person appointments, but most took place on Zoom. While our teams in Europe who attended physical events wore masks, as did many of the designers who video called us from their busy studios, only two brands featured face-coverings in their collection imagery: Versace and Raquel Allegra.
While many fashion brands are producing masks for sale—including many that created resort and men’s spring 2021 collections this summer—the item has not yet found its way into mainstream fashion imagery. Most collections we featured centred on homebound life or true escapism, or else they adhered to a true runway format in which guests wore masks but models did not. Meanwhile, in real life, as COVID-19 continues to spread in the United States and abroad, the mask is becoming the visual symbol of our times.
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” said Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centres for Disease Control in the United States, in a report released on July 14. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus—particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”
Versace declined to comment on its masked lookbook, only noting through a representative that the masks are not for sale—at least not yet—and were produced especially for the lookbook shoot. Models don’t wear them in every image, but even the inclusion of a face-covering in a few images from a brand as globally renowned as Versace is likely to do a lot to encourage mask-wearing among the fashion obsessed.
Raquel Allegra, the other designer to include the protective style in her collection, said the choice to include masks started with function. “Shooting with the masks had to do with protecting Marike [Le Roux, the model,] and protecting my team,” Allegra told Vogue over the phone. It was about “making sure that, to the best of my ability, I could take care of anyone that had come to work on something with me.”
The California-based designer only started producing the tie-dyed masks for this this season, explaining she waited to start production until she could feel she was making the masks safely with social distancing in place. “In some ways, you can look at it like we’re behind the game in terms of making masks, but I really wanted to make them right,” she said, noting that in the future, her clients will be able to purchase a mask style to coordinate with her dresses, tops, and jumpsuits.
With masks becoming a health must, it’s curious that more companies didn’t include any face coverings, whether of their own design or a simple surgical style. By photographing a model in a mask, Allegra explained, she felt she was creating not only a fashion image, but an image that represented life in 2020. “This is what’s true for me right now, this is what’s true for my community. I believe in showing that, and not in pretending that everything is ok—really, it’s not,” she said. “But we’re finding our way through it, and we can only do that if we’re being honest. If we pretend something else is happening then we’re only really projecting an illusion. I know that fashion is often about fantasy, but I don’t actually create from that perspective. I create from reality.”
Alexandra Gurvitch, Vogue’s market editor who styled a masks in the magazine’s upcoming September issue, echoes this. “When I picture myself in my future, I’m wearing a mask. I think that’s going to be our immediate future for a while and I think that people need to start putting that into their content,” she says, noting the divide between companies that have made masks versus the ones that photographed them in collection imagery. “All these designers making them is pretty smart … it’s showing there’s a commitment to health and safety that is a part of your brand’s DNA.”