Drab monotone masks make way for more sophisticated, trendy protective facewear
If you want to invoke your inner superhero in the age of Covid-19, just slip on a Batman or Wonder Woman face mask.
Perhaps you want to honour your dog or cat by stepping out in a pet-inspired mask or add a bit of glamour to your next trip to the supermarket with a crystal-encrusted or sequined variety?
There's even a solution for spectacle wearers whose lenses fog up - a mask that comes with a nose plate.
When the government proclaimed face masks mandatory for people in SA, struggling entrepreneurs grabbed the opportunity to reinvent their businesses by pushing the envelope with wacky and stylish designs.
The drab monotone masks that initially sufficed for most South Africans are quickly making way for more sophisticated, trendy and humorous protective facewear.
About two months ago, Kathrine Fleur was dazzling the bodybuilding world with her bling bikinis for women competitors.
But Fleur, who won social media fame three years ago by creating a R5,000 stone-encrusted bikini for US professional fitness model Leah Ward, had to reinvent herself when the coronavirus struck SA.
Now the La Lucia-based founder of Magic Bikinis is creating bling masks.
"In a very uncertain time, people seem to be wanting to have a bit of fun, to not be ordinary and to glam it up a bit . and have a few different colours to go with their wardrobe," said Fleur.
"Our bling masks range from R120 to R295. However, if a client has a specific idea in mind that requires many hours of lace and crystal detail, we would charge R400 per hour for the hand embellishments."
Artist Candice Leth was airbrush painting Harley-Davidsons, surfboards and vintage fridges, as well as creating massive murals around Durban, before the virus struck.
These days she is airbrushing pet faces, superheroes and villains like The Joker on face masks.
"A friend sent some plain white masks to paint for fun and encouraged me to post the end products on Facebook," said Leth.
"Since my post I've had quite a few orders. It's amazing how our lifestyles have changed and how people want something unique and handmade. I've had orders for cartoon characters, skulls and even people's pets."
Leth's masks range from R150 to R200.
Lizette Duncan and Raymond Fritz, owners of Johannesburg bridal gown design studio Bridal Alchemy, have used their skills to produce a bling range of protective facewear since the wedding industry crashed.
"We knew that in order for us to have any chance of survival, we would have to reinvent ourselves," said Fritz.
Their bling range cost R149.95 per mask.
"For a studio such as ours, which normally sees about 50 brides in just one week, the monetary losses were staggering. We do not know what the future holds for us, especially since every one of our brides has postponed their weddings until next year," he said.
Medical device company eMoyo has provided the solution to steamy spectacles by creating removable laser-cut nose plates for its masks. It devised the masks after receiving complaints about a common problem for many mask wearers - foggy glasses.
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