Outside of Carnival, did you ever think you’d wear a face mask in public? In recent months, for the first time in most of our lives, the majority of the world updated its wardrobe simultaneously, as face masks became vital to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Many Caribbean families dutifully retrieved their sewing kits — repurposed Danish cookie tins — and created homemade masks out of old T-shirts, leftover fabric, and even socks. Children were assigned the important task of mask monitor, and lists of mask makers were widely circulated on social media, along with news of mask donations to charities and essential workers.
Of course, Caribbean fashion designers also got into the act, giving the new daily “maskerade” their own unique twist. Amusing and stylish prints quickly trended around the region. These protective face coverings may hide our emotions, but smiling eyes and approving nods are still visible, particularly as strangers compliment each other on their creative masks. Trinidadian designer and Caribbean Beat illustrator James Hackett is the founder of the Lush Kingdom design label, known for its vivid bespoke prints, used on everything from clothing to shoes and umbrellas — and now masks. He explains how he incorporated the new essential accessory into his repertoire.
What stories do Lush Kingdom’s masks tell?
The masks were born out of necessity more than style. I applied an extra bit of colour and print-heavy designs — part of Lush Kingdom’s DNA — and they were very successful. I think some people may continue to wear them when the pandemic has ended, but I don’t see them as a mainstay.
When the use of cloth masks became enforced, people complained about discomfort, and fogged glasses among other issues. What makes Lush Kingdom’s masks better?
The design of my mask fits better along the nose bridge, so it traps air below the glasses. With the valve, there were customers who were glad to have the filters, because of difficulty breathing with regular cloth masks.
Are there any unexpected elements in mask design that have impressed you?
I won’t say impressed, per se. There were definitely different fabric uses and some alterations of shape. People have been creative with print combos, and combined pieces with head wraps and their outfits in general.
What do you anticipate the near future of mask fashion will look like in the Caribbean?
I don’t think masking will be that big of a thing in the region, but I foresee most of the trends in fashion picking up steam here — for example, athleisure and comfortable clothing.
Are there other COVID-19 fashion trends on the horizon?
I think more practical, comfort- and utility-driven clothing could be a thing. I also believe that people will be looking for fantastic designs after being restricted for so long, so there may be an explosion of fantasy going forward, too.