Covid-19 Impact: Stylish face mask is the new focal accessory of India’s top fashion brands

Soon you will be able to choose from an array of non-surgical masks in garment-matching colours, prints and reusable denim finishes as fashion brands such as Arvind Fashions, Madura Fashion & Lifestyle, Puma, Bata, Hidesign and Woodland seek to cash in on the opportunity anticipating a year-long wellness habit.

Several apparel makers and fast-moving consumer goods companies had earlier stepped up to produce medical-grade masks as a philanthropic act when Covid-19 struck but now it is apparent that the pandemic is set to alter lifestyles for at least some time to come.

“Masks are expected to become a habit over the next few months. We are also working on neem and tulsi treated fabrics for Peter England for greater degree of wellness,” said Vishak Kumar, CEO of Madura Fashion & Lifestyle.

Factories of Peter England, Louis Philippe, Allen Solly and Van Heusen are tailoring masks with comfort, fit and shape analytics for adults and kids, he said.

The move comes at a time when the core apparel market has been forced to shut down owing to the lockdown. Fashion brands suffered a 70% fall in sales in March due to closure of malls. Masks as a quintessential accessory will help brands use existing stock material and drive cash flow.

“Fashion is the right industry to manufacture masks. The category is a definite commercial opportunity. It is not just a phase but a year-long trend,” said J Suresh, chief executive at Arvind Fashions which will launch masks under US Polo Assn, Unlimited and Flying Machine brands.

Lifestyle brands Puma India and Hidesign too are set to launch masks in the next few months. Even suits and trousers have come under the health canopy as textile makers Donear Group of Companies and Grado have developed an anti-viral fabric to stay relevant.

According to Sandeep Kataria, CEO of Bata India, the footwear company plans to introduce masks under its sports brand Power and broaden antibacterial school shoes range to adults.

Liberty Shoes is launching a new brand called Reset to sell washable virus-and-fungi resistant slip-in shoes, flip flops and casual footwear, said director-retail Anupam Bansal.

With a more pervasive preventive mindset, demand for masks at chemists expanded 50-80% and the average order on ecommerce platforms increased more than four times in the 30-day period ending mid-March, according to a Nielsen report.

Fashion etailer Myntra, which restarted operations with delivery of masks, has created a dedicated ‘essentials’ section on its menu driven by the growing demand of the category in the past couple of weeks. “We are looking to sell PPE (personal protective equipment) such as overalls, visors and helmets in the coming months. Discussions are also on with brands experimenting with anti-virus clothing,” said Ayyappan Rajagopal, head of business at Myntra.

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