The battle of the designer face masks is heating up as a raft of brands follow Uniqlo and Under Armour’s lead in creating high-tech fashionable PPE.
Last month Uniqlo launched their Airism face mask, made from its breathable high-tech fabric usually reserved for its underwear range, to such high demand that its website crashed.
The staggering demand for its face masks, which remained sold out in Japan for weeks after launch, demonstrated to other retailers how lucrative branded fashionable masks could be.
“In the era of the coronavirus pandemic, masks are no longer commodities but have become something that hold significance,” branding consultancy Interbrand Japan’s chief executive Masahito Namiki told the Financial Times.
“By selling masks, brands can send the message that they are socially responsible and doing something good for society”.
Uniqlo now said it plans to sell 500,000 units a week “throughout the year”, but its own success has in turn created a raft of rivals.
On the same day its masks went on sale, Under Armour began taking order for its own high-tech branded Sportsmasks, selling out its entire 30,000 stock in just an hour.
Weeks later Japanese sportswear brand Mizuno began selling masks made of material usually used in swimming costumes, followed by sporting goods maker Yonex which launched a range of masks infused with xylitol helping keep the wearer cool.
Fashion and home furnishings brand Muji has also launched a range of facemasks made from 100 per cent cotton.
While fashion retailers like Zalando, Boohoo and marketplace Etsy have been selling branded face masks for months, these did nothing to offer customers anything they couldn’t get from cheaper disposable masks they could buy in bulk.
By developing masks which offer increased protection, comfort and aesthetics these retailers have become front runners in an emerging market which could be a vital lifeline for struggling brands.