Masks: Fashion week's must-have accessory

Guests wearing face masks at the Dolce and Gabbana show during Milan Fashion Week
Guests wearing face masks at the Dolce and Gabbana show during Milan Fashion Week PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS • Paris women's fashion week began late on Monday, with the face mask already its must-have accessory.

With two Chinese brands - Shiatzy Chen and Jarel Zhang - missing from the runway because of the coronavirus epidemic, the biggest wardrobe dilemma for fashionistas is whether or not to wear a mask.

Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani saved their blushes on Sunday by staging his Milan show behind closed doors because of the outbreak of the virus in Codogno, 70km south-east of the city.

But fashionistas were wearing masks to shows in the Italian fashion capital even before news of the cluster of deaths led to several towns in the Lombardy region being locked down.

Paris Fashion Week - which attracts thousands of buyers from all over the world - is not taking any particular measures against the epidemic, but the fall-out from the crisis has sent shares in many fashion conglomerates plummeting.

Chanel has also delayed a show it was due to stage in Beijing this May after "taking into account the recommendations of the Chinese authorities".

But French luxury goods magnate Bernard Arnault, whose LVMH empire is the world's biggest luxury goods group, sought to play down the long-term economic impact of the virus.

"The Chinese government have taken the problem on frontally and in a transparent and efficient manner, I think," he told French radio.


Chatter over coronavirus and the rising prices of face masks, which some claim are becoming a luxury item themselves, have somewhat overshadowed the Paris debut of young Nigerian designer Kenneth Ize.

The 29-year-old has made a name for himself re-interpreting traditional West African fabrics, such as aso oke cloth woven by the Yoruba people, and counts supermodel Naomi Campbell among his fans.

Having studied in Vienna under Turkish Cypriot-British designer Hussein Chalayan, Ize has had a meteoric rise.

Although he has been showing on and off in Lagos since 2013, he showed a menswear collection last year in a friend's Paris apartment and found himself shortlisted for the prestigious LVMH prize.

His debut comes after the Cameroonian creator Imane Ayissi made history last month by becoming the first black African designer to be admitted to the elite ranks of Paris haute couture.

Like Ayissi, Ize is a champion of traditional African fabrics and techniques. The LVMH jury praised his "authenticity and the fight to source and produce locally in Nigeria".

His autumn/winter collection in Paris is inspired by his memories of going to church with his mother, with everyone dressed in their Sunday best.

Ize's is one of four labels making their Paris debut alongside French brands Coperni and Gauchere - which is led by German designer Marie-Christine Statz - and the Japanese brand Noir Kei Ninomiya.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2020, with the headline 'Masks: Fashion week's must-have accessory'. Subscribe