Welcome or unwanted, face masks are here to stay as the new addition to our casual must-haves like keys, phones, and wallets. Is it possible to turn a mundane public health item into a mobile fashion statement? FashioNXT decided to test the talents of designers around the world working tirelessly to help our personalities shine while making the world a safer place. Oregon’s premier fashion platform hosted a 2020 FashioNXT Mask Design Competition. [Disclosure: I served as one of four pro-bono judges for this competition thanks to my viral coverage of the protective face mask design developments since Spring 2020.] Among other judges were Mondo Guerra – Fashion Designer and Project Runway All Star Winner, Tra’Renee Chambers – Emmy Award Winner / KATU-TV Host, and iHeart Radio Portland Personality Ken Boddie-Anchor, KOIN TV/Channel 6.
Portland is known for its sustainability leadership and contemporary cool vibes. This year its unofficial motto could be summarized in one word: disruption. From early Covid-19 surges, Antifa movement, hazardous air conditions due to unprecedented wildfires, and President Trump’s bullying of the mayor, Portland and its people have withstood it all. According to Tito Chowdhury, FashioNXT’s Chief Executive & Founder, the competition has brought forth the missing creativity and camaraderie after the pandemic prevented the industry from coming together in-person to celebrate fashion this year.
“Portland’s contagious independence, artistic ethos, and hyper-progressive community have become its signature. At the core of sustainable design is the practice of lesser quantity, higher quality. We are looking to inspire consumers not to be drawn to disposable single-use practices,” said Chowdhury. FashioNXT is donating part of the mask auction proceeds to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital’s COVID-19 Response Fund.
When past becomes the future
Fashion isn’t canceled in quarantine! There is no doubt that history repeats itself and learning from the past is the only way to embrace the future. For the winner of the 2020 mask competition, designer Anna Bartoletti, inspiration came from the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Drawn by the similarities between the people who lived over 100 years ago and our lives today, her designs are also inspired by vintage photos and family memorabilia documenting the events we are all experiencing. Then, putting a contemporary twist on it. “I was amazed at how many aspects repeated themselves, and how many of the same concerns of the past we have today,” said Bartoletti. “While there are so many people that willingly wear facemasks, there are also many people who do not.” Wearing a mask is a proven medical tactic