On April 5, I paid $13.99 for an LED sound-activated face party mask on Amazon that glows in time to the beat. It was one of the few under-$20 masks available that offered Prime shipping. What I bought is not a medical mask. The neon design offers no specific filtration protection from Covid-19. But technically, this rave mask is government approved.
As of two days earlier, the CDC’s Covid-19 guidelines suggested that people wear “simple cloth face coverings” to cover their nose and mouth to help “slow the spread of the virus.” N95 masks are no longer supposed to be worn by the general public as priority shifts to frontline workers, who are experiencing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, surgical gloves, and gowns.
In fact, there are so few N95 masks to go around that the U.S. government has resorted to piracy at airport customs and tried to bribe and threaten suppliers for more. On Google, searches for “where to buy a face mask” are the highest ever since, well, the creation of Google. Even regular cloth masks are in such short supply that the U.S. surgeon general uploaded a YouTube video where he gave instructions on how to make a DIY mask at home using an old T-shirt and elastics.
Amid this drought, it seems there’s hardly a fashion or apparel brand that hasn’t stepped up to retool its production lines to help — pumping out face masks, both medical- and consumer-grade. The dozens include couture big shots Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Dior along with seemingly every mall brand in America — Gap, Zara, Brooks Brothers, Eddie Bauer, and Eileen Fisher. Then there are the niche designers Johnny Was, American Giant, and Lilly Pulitzer; tiny indie brands like Youphoria Festivalwear and Lesley Evers; and Etsy, which has been flooded with DIY vendors. In Pennsylvania, Fanatics, which manufactures uniforms for Major League Baseball players, is turning its jersey fabric into face masks and hospital gowns. Even Dov Charney, the infamous former CEO of American Apparel, is going full throttle: His Los Angeles Apparel cotton face coverings…