Try as you might, you can’t purchase a luxury mask.
That’s despite the fact that, since 2019, a range of high-end brands including Fendi, Off-White, Marcelo Burlon and Marine Serre have all made and sold face masks, some for hundreds of dollars. At the time of their launches, seeing someone in a mask was rare in the U.S. Now, masks have become mandatory in some states, but luxury versions have disappeared.
It’s not that they’re sold out, it seems, but that retailers are refusing to stock them because of a fear of backlash. The popular opinion is that selling a $20 mask is OK, but selling a mask by a luxury brand with a luxury price point is in poor taste.
On April 24, fashion influencer Bryanboy tweeted — to great approval from his 510,000 followers — a WhatsApp direct message he’d received from @Farfetch about “those overpriced Off-White masks.” He was referring to the styles he’d called out earlier that day, selling on Farfetch for up to $1,000. The message stated, “We’ve blocked sales of the face masks at excessive prices. As a marketplace, we don’t set prices, but where we think consumers are being disadvantaged, we intervene — and in this case, we have.”
Farfetch sent Glossy the same statement when asked about potentially selling masks on the platform, where there are currently none. Bryanboy did not respond to a request for further comment.
In fact, none of the major multi-brand luxury retailers are selling masks right now, and none want to talk about it. MatchesFashion, Net-a-Porter and Saks Fifth Avenue declined to comment. Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman did not respond to request for comment. LVMH also did not respond regarding whether its brands, including Fendi, would be making fashion masks in the future. (Last July, Fendi launched a collaboration with K-pop star Jackson Wang that included a velvet mask selling for $290.) Marcelo Burlon and Off-White via New Guards Group did not respond when asked about upcoming mask releases and restocks of styles. Neither Fendi, Marcelo Burlon nor Off-White are currently selling masks on their e-commerce site.
Designers outside of the luxury category are selling masks, including contemporary designer Jonathan Simkhai, who is selling a four-pack for $48, and Tanya Taylor, with a three-pack for $35. The masks get the job done, but they’re not recognizable like those by Off-White and Bape, currently selling for triple-digits exclusively on resale sites including Grailed and StockX.
“Fashion lovers are looking for masks that show their personal style, and they’re turning to their favorite brands,” said Katy Lubin, vp of communications at fashion aggregator Lyst. And currently, she said, demand for stylish masks far exceeds supply.
According to Lyst’s quarterly The Lyst Index for the first quarter of 2020, released Wednesday, Off-White’s arrow logo face mask, which retailed for $95, was the top men’s fashion item of the time period. The Index ranks fashion’s hottest brands and products, based on search data, conversion rates and sales, plus social media mentions and engagement.
Off-White’s face masks were first introduced for the fall 2019 season and were formerly available at luxury retailers including Ssense, which is not currently selling masks.
“Brands need to find the delicate balance of creating products that customers want, without being accused of insensitivity or profiting from a crisis,” said Lubin.
Eugenia Kim, who designs accessories including hats and handbags in the $300-$500 range, started selling masks on her brand’s e-commerce site on April 22, for $20 a pop. Styles include a color-blocked satin version, a hot-pink version and a sequin version.
Kim said the price difference between her brand’s masks and its other products, was due to her goal of achieving maximum reach through affordability. Major retailers have reached out to stock the masks, and Kim is considering selling through their stores.
Lubin said luxury brands may have been unable to ramp up mask production in response to increased demand, especially due to current supply chain messiness. Meanwhile, fast-fashion brands are all over the mask trend: Fashion Nova, for one, is currently selling a range of styles, priced $4.99-$12.99. They feature tie-dye prints or graphics reading, “Fuck this shit.”
As Kim sees it, masks will become standard — as they have in markets like Japan — and she doesn’t see anything wrong with using them to complete a look. “Not all masks are fashion accessories, but mine are,” she said.
And according to Syama Meagher, chief retail strategist at Scaling Retail, luxury brands will come back around.
“As we’ve seen historically in the luxury market, they are usually not the ones to innovate,” she said. “Instead, they play it safe until the market has proven itself, then they come in with highly branded merch. They will enter this market, but they will be late.”