To mask or not to mask, that is no longer the question as far as those Beijing-based diehards are concerned. How does one rock the smog boat in style, then? Enter MeHow, a new Shenzhen mask company looking “to make lung protection trendy by way of flashy extensions in the shapes of butterflies, wingtips, and other bold molds”. Kyle Mullin reports for The Beijinger!
“I’m a proponent. What constitutes a stylish mask? A stylish mask is one you own, I don’t care if you wear Big Bird on your face, if you own it, it’s style.” Quote, well, Elsbeth van Paridon
Temper Magazine’s Trending segment casts a net upon all that is throwing tantrums within the world of China Fashion across a variety of global sources. This very necessary segment dips its toe into the deep indigo-dyed pool that is the ocean of Middle Kingdom fashionable astonishment.
This time around, we go full-on Beicology (aka the ecological state of the great smog-sogged capital that is Beijing) with The Beijinger reporter Kyle Mullin as he contemplates the potential “butterfly effect” of MeHow masks on China’s street style scenery. Mullin is the masked man of the hour and in the process throws in some “VIP” fashion comments, including one Temper tantrum — insert wink. Mask the truth, we shall not!
“There’s a vast market for masks in China, so why not? Although they are niche, a niche in China can be huge!” Milliner fave Elisabeth Koch
Smog, Blog And Vlog
Why do so many of us not heed such sound advice, and instead venture out into the soup with any protection? The discomfort of many masks can frequently be a factor, along with simply forgetting to make the precaution part of our routine. But chicer Beijingers have more aesthetic concerns, worrying that bulky pale masks will clash with their ensembles.
Enter MeHow, a new mask company based out of Shenzhen looking to make lung protection trendy by way of flashy extensions in the shapes of butterflies, wingtips, and other bold molds. You’ve likely seen their ads splattered over the walls of various Beijing subway stations recently, prompting us at the Beijinger to wonder just how much potential such extravagant masks have in our increasingly fashion-forward capital.
After speaking to a handful of designers and fashion writers, the consensus was less than enthusiastic, to say the least. Julia Liang, who blogs about fashion and travel at Heels On the Go, admits that MeHow is onto something with the notion of trendier masks, explaining: “If it were up to me, if I absolutely have to wear a mask, I’d choose something more stylish and different than a mask we’d buy at the convenience store that’s cheap-looking.”
And while Liang can see the appeal in that, she is also quick to add: “There’s a fine line between stylish and tacky, and these seem tacky to me. The thing about style, you want to make a statement. You want people to look at you and say ‘Oh, she’s got style.’ But at the same time, you don’t want people to look at you and go, ‘Wow, that’s too weird.'”
Fashion vlogger Adrianna Wang (who uses the alias Mulan or can be found on Weibo as @the木兰show) was all the more adamant in that regard, saying the MeHow masks “don’t look good at all,” before going adding, “I don’t know what designers they hired. If they don’t have a background in fashion design, and think what they’re doing is creative …”
Her main gripe with MeHow is its eye-popping patterns, which she deems to be an eyesore. “You don’t wear a mask on its own, you’re not naked while wearing it; it has to go with the rest of your outfit,” Wang says, adding: “I don’t like the pattern, it doesn’t look fashionable, it doesn’t inspire you to put it together with another outfit. It just looks like a picture you Googled off the internet … these days, if you want to wear something on a daily basis, it’s better to make things simpler.”
Functionality might be the main problem here, with no valves or filters in sight.
The Flying Dutchwomen
But for [Dutch passport holding] Elsbeth van Paridon, founder and editor of the China fashion-focused Temper Magazine [here we are!], the MeHow masks, as overly flashy as they may be, at least skirt a cardinal fashion sin in her eyes: being bland. “Stylish or not, it is a statement … I do think that the pollution masks have become a staple wardrobe item. And when it comes to staples, you either go big or go home,” she says, before even applauding the butterfly design as a metaphor for nature vs. pollution. She adds: “I’m a proponent. What constitutes a stylish mask? A stylish mask is one you own, I don’t care if you wear Big Bird on your face, if you own it, it’s style.
American-Dutch Elisabeth Koch, a renowned Beijing milliner who has kept a close eye on fashion trends in the capital throughout her decade-long stay here, agrees with van Paridon, to an extent at least. “The first masks we saw on the street looked like one had just stepped out of a hospital,” Koch points out, before pointing to more aesthetically pleasing masks designed by Plastered 8 for Vogmask, or Cambridge Mask Co.’s colorful designs, as a natural progression for appearance-conscious Beijingers. “Now I see these MeHow masks, with sparkles and sequins, embroidery and beads. There’s a vast market for masks in China, so this is fantastic, why not? Although they are niche, a niche in China can be huge!”
Still, Koch couldn’t quite reconcile some of her concerns with MeHow’s over-the-top design, weighing pros and cons again and again, saying: “I still wonder how functional these MeHow masks are. I don’t see any valves or filters on the sides. And I also question if they are indeed comfortable and what the price point is. Masks are typically things that get lost like gloves, so price should play a role. I absolutely welcome these fun, glamorous, MeHow masks even if just to add some more glitter and sparkle to the streets. They’ll make people who see them smile. But for me personally, I’ll stick to the Cambridge Mask Co.’s cheerful, happy, comfortable, and functional pieces.”
Read the full Mullin fashion conclusion on The Modern Mask right here on The Beijinger! And remember… Style can never be masked.