Face Masks Are Getting A Fashion-Forward Twist At NYFW

This story was originally published on September 15.

On Imitation of Christ-wearing skateboarders in L.A., on models in Anna Sui’s dollhouse, on crystal-embellished beings in the land of Libertine — everywhere we look during the first digital New York Fashion Week are face masks, each one more stylish than the last. Not that we are entirely surprised: Face masks are one of this year’s most used accessory, after all. So much so that, over the last few months, designers have taken to vamping up the protective items with gemstones, bows, flowers, and chain accessories. (Louis Vuitton is currently selling a $961 LV Monogram face shield.) So, naturally, when Zero + Maria Cornejo debuted a quilted, navy blue mask on Monday, we knew it’d be one of many to come. 

The number of face masks appearing during an almost entirely virtual fashion week is proof that PPE has also become a mode of expressing one's sense of style and identity — one that's as frequently included in collections as other accessories like crochet bucket hats and Teva sandals (Sui). (It also serves as a reminder that we should all continue to wear masks to reduce COVID-19 spread.)

And, with collections from some of fashion’s most popular mask designers — including Collina Strada, Christian Siriano, and Alice + Olivia by Stacey Bendet — still to come, we have a feeling the best is yet to be seen. For now, click ahead to see how designers have approached this year’s most essential fashion item thus far.

Collina Strada

As expected, Collina Strada's spring '21 collection was full of masks, including designer Hillary Taymour's signature side-tie, tie-dye mask, as well as a new satin style shaped like a flower. Varying shades of both options were presented throughout the eco-conscious brand's film presentation — titled Change Is Cute — which included digital flower models, "farm-tastic" clothes, and a song made specifically for the video that often repeated the phrase, "Climate change is really sad," which, like, true. Photo Courtesy of Collina Strada.

Alice + Olivia by Stacey Bendet

In April, toward the beginning of what's now been a very long pandemic, Alice + Olivia by Stacey Bendet released a shoppable face mask that was actually cute — something that hadn't really been done prior, but has since become extremely popular. Now, Bendet is taking things up a notch once again. For her spring '21 collection, the designer added coordinating masks to almost every single look. Photo Courtesy of Alice + Olivia by Stacey Bendet.

Rebecca Minkoff

At Rebecca Minkoff's fall '20 NYFW presentation, the N.Y.-based designer introduced face masks alongside the collection's other accessories and apparel, including this zebra print mask-and-crossbody duo, as well as a quilted jacket with a matching floral mask.


Davidson Petit-Frère's luxury menswear brand Frère is known for its classic tailoring, artisan-made pieces, and high-quality materials. Now, for its spring '21 collection, the fashion house is translating that into its first womenswear collection, which includes suits (and a matching face mask).Photo Courtesy of Frère.

Studio 189 x Fashion Our Future

To kickstart Fashion Our Future 2020, a new voter registration campaign designed to use fashion as a way of mobilizing voters, co-founder Abrima Erwiah, who's also the co-founder of the fashion brand Studio 189, used NYFW to spread her message: Vote. One way she did so was by making voting merch in the form of red-and-blue tie-dye face masks, which she presented on the new CFDA Runway 360 platform.


To accompany JOY RUN, Tourmaline's short film about trans athletes, Chromat released a standout fall collection full of bike shorts, crop tops, sleeveless hoodies, and more. Also included were four new face masks — a first for the brand — that come in yellow, red, blue, and green.

Oak & Acorn

For spring '21, Harlem-based sustainable denim brand Oak & Acorn used its slot on the NYFW calendar to continue the conversation around systemic racism in America. Between images of protests and messages about denim's role in American history, the brand's presentation video flashed to images of models, including one wearing a denim face mask painted with the word "FREE" on it. Photo by Peter Osborne/Courtesy of Oak & Acorn.

Anna Sui

In Anna Sui's dollhouse, models wore face masks, including those of the floral variety. (Whether or not Kate Middleton will wear one is yet to be determined.)Photographer: Jackie Kursel.

Zero + Maria Cornejo

Not only did this N.Y.-based label design masks to protect wearers in style, but they also did so sustainably. This mask, in particular, was made using what the brand calls "zig-zag quilting," a method of quilting made from organic cotton and a renewable, 100% biodegradable cellulose acetate that is manufactured with minimal emissions, because who wants to be breathing in potentially harmful materials all day?
Photo: Matthew Kristall.


Designer Johnson Hartig may have used the past 20 years of Libertine as his inspiration for the spring '21 collection, according to Vogue, but clearly he didn't forget about the future — designing a selection of protective face masks to match.Photo Courtesy of Libertine.

Imitation of Christ

For its long-awaited return to NYFW, L.A.-based brand Imitation of Christ highlighted the women of skateboarding, a sport typically dominated by men. In the campaign video, female skaters can be seen riding and performing tricks throughout the California metropolis, all the while wearing IOC garb and masks, thus proving that you can, in fact, wear a mask while you exercise. Photo Courtesy of Imitation of Christ.

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