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‘I’ve Not Been Recognised By Friends’: Indians Want Individuality Over Masked Realms of ‘Who Am I’

© REUTERS / Amit DaveA man prepares a face mask with the photograph of a customer printed on it, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a photo studio in Gandhinagar, India, May 27, 2020.
A man prepares a face mask with the photograph of a customer printed on it, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a photo studio in Gandhinagar, India, May 27, 2020.  - Sputnik International
New Delhi (Sputnik): Some of the most awaited high-fashion events of the year, including the Met Gala have been cancelled this year due to the pandemic, which came as a major buzzkill, clouding the world with gloom and fear. But for some time to come, one new accessory is expected to make for dazzling red carpet looks – face masks.

People from around the world have been posting on social media about how hand sanitisers and face masks would be part of our lives for a long time in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic that hit humanity at the beginning of this year and has since left over 300,000 people dead.

Meanwhile, in India, mask manufacturers have become creative: from offering masks in authentic indigenous prints on cotton masks, to local printing shops taking orders to stamp plain white masks with people’s own faces – everything randomly stylish is hitting both online and retail stores.

“Nowadays, because of the virus outbreak, everybody is wearing masks. Somewhere we seem to have lost our individual identities. I have my own personal experiences where I have not been recognized by friends and shop owners in my own locality, where everybody otherwise knows everybody else," Binesh G Paul of Beena Lasertech studio in Kerala told Sputnik.

​"I started thinking, what if I created customized masks with the covered parts of their faces printed on them? Using sublimation technology, I started and since then, people have been coming to my studio, and getting these face masks, uniquely designed with their faces on them," Paul noted.

While some people have found these face-printed masks “creepy”, the others have taken this opportunity to “enhance” their facial features – without having to go under the knife.

“The other day, a woman came to my studio and asked us to print ex-Miss World Aishwarya Rai’s lips on her face for the mask. We have also had wedding parties, who are getting married in times of COVID-19 asking us to print pictures and names of brides and grooms on their masks. Bike riders are asking us to match their masks with their helmets,” Paul added with a chuckle.

Bridal masks with intricate embroidery, embedded with pearls and rubies are also available in Indian markets, to totally match the spirit of typical big fat Indian weddings. 

​“We all need to wear masks, for ourselves and the society. Wearing a mask is a sign of respect towards our front-line workers. It is a symbol to show that we respect their sincerity and efforts, we care about the society and don’t want to endanger any lives,” Jayati Baweja, co-founder of Eco and Faye further added, explaining how safety and style can go a long way, hand-in-hand.

Currently, India is in the fourth phase of the coronavirus-caused lockdown but in order to maintain the pulse of national economy, the government has allowed relaxation and exemption for workers of essential sectors like media, police and government employees.

Millennials, those of who still have jobs, are also returning to work in a slow and steady manner. Grabbing the “need of the hour” –masks – and combining it with funny quotes, famous Bollywood dialogues and witty punchlines, several brands have begun selling attractive masks for affordable prices.

​Indian brands are also thinking out of the box to create cute and fancy masks for children, that would want them to keep their faces covered and protect themselves.

​“We’ve got requests for all sort of designs, funky designs for college students or sober designs for corporate too. We’ve got few experimental requests of retro and neon shades too. Apart from crazy prints, we did a design which was a combination of mask and scarf. We also did prototype designs for different sports – cricket, boxing, soccer, etc,” Amit Singh, Co-Founder of pro-environment handicraft brand “Eco and Faye” told Sputnik.

The pandemic, which has struck over 200 countries, has led to a mass shortage of masks globally.

Earlier in March, India imposed a ban on exporting all masks – surgical as well as disposable – in the wake of the rising cases in the country. In mid-May however, the Indian government decided to allow the export of India-made non-medical masks of all types – silk, cotton, knitted and woollen.

Citing market research experts, the media has previously reported that India could rapidly pick up pace and become one of world’s largest exporter of masks in the world. Currently, countries like China, Argentina and Brazil have been huge exporters of masks.

The Chairperson of Apparel Export Promotion Council of India, A. Sakthivel has revealed that India is expecting bulky mask orders for export, which could fetch the country over one billion dollars in revenue within three months.

As of now, nearly 6 million cases of COVID-19 patients have been recorded by real time statistics platform Worldometer.com. In India, the number has breached the 167,000 mark, with the recoveries of over 71,000 patients and the deaths of 4,706, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 

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