One of the exciting aims I can think of for this rising of fusion of technology and fashion is the social solutions it can provide to world. Recently one of hip-hop’s fashion Icons, Kanye West became a topic of many conversations due to his wearing of masks during his Yeezus tour. The masks were designed by Maison Martin Margiela. The masks made their way to the couture runway in the fall of 2013. I was attracted to the idea of wearing a mask as a form of expression through apparel after the current topic. Throughout history, I believe the “Bourgeoisie” has played with this idea of concealed identity especially within in a taboo setting, so therefore I can understand how this form of expression can make it to the world of couture. The wearing of masks can be interpreted in so many ways, but what if the reason for wearing masks became more of a necessity rather than an expression?
In China, the air pollution has become so horrific that “when air is so bad, people who don’t wear masks are like ET”, as expressed in the South China Morning Post. In Fashion-forward face masks a big hit in China amid soaring air pollution, Wu Nan expressed the uprising of face masks as an effect to protect China’s citizens from the air pollution. What was interesting to me is that the article was posted under the Health section in the SCMP. The use of face masks have become so common that there has been a fashion dynamic added to this necessity. As with anything, the fashion market has found its way to establish its presence amongst consumers.
It would just be natural that enthusiastic fashion technologists would embark on this challenge. In My Health Beijing, an article was written in comparing two air pollution face masks. . In Respro Vs. Totobobo: Which Mask Works Better For Air Pollution? Dr. Richard described details about Respro masks. It contains filters for any urban pollution. The mask like others in the market helps to clean air while you breathe. Aesthetically, like its challengers, it has an industrial but a slight sleekness to its appearance.
In more recent articles, such as AirWaves: Face Mask Filters Pollution, Crowdsources Air-Quality Data in ecouterre , a prototype of a new air pollution mask is featured. Author, Bridgette Meinhold, mentioned that the company Frog Design which one of its focuses is on the future of wearable technology, has created a mask that will help improve data monitoring. The Airwaves is a smart device that will monitor air quality in real time and then share its data to everyone who would have its mobile app. This would serve as a security to people from harmful environments while data collecting for the country. The appearance of the device is a bit more conspicuous on the technological aspect but it comes with the added equipment. I think this maybe one of the areas Frog Design may try to change within their product design given that the other masks on the market are not as bulky but with the added resource consumers might be a little more forgiving.
The exciting part of this innovative piece of garment is that its original development was made for the intent to help people breathe in China. It then progressed to a more technical advance device with added filters. What is a little alarming is how it is becoming another “smart” device. It makes me wonder who is so data driven and how much will this device cost. In this scenario, a social problem was presented, to where its effects were dangerous to all partakers of society. As a result of this problem a common wearable product, such as a face mask was in use and then turned to a fashion garment. As a natural effect in consumerism, the switch to a variety of choices of masks was not unusual in today’s market. The need to produce filters is also, I believe a logical step forward, but with the added equipment the cost of the product has increased. So now, I see a division of accessibility. For the general population there is a mask provided and for the ones with a little more disposable income there is also a product for them to use. Now with the use of smartphones, another product has been designed to suit consumers with the possession of smart devices which may have a different income than that of the first face masks’ consumers. The price of a generic face mask provided by 3M is $12.71 Box/20 to compare to a filtered mask such as the Respro for $59.95 plus the cost of filters $29.95 for two and that is just for a certain kind of air pollution. You would have to buy more for each environment.
Given the knowledge of China’s economic structure, it would appear that the filtered masks will not be used by everyone, but doesn’t everyone have the right to breathe the same quality of air? Now with this new smart device in progress, it brings about another question, doesn’t everyone have the right to know where the hazardous air pollution is located in their own country? I mean what if a person cannot afford a smart phone, how would that individual be informed? Maybe my thinking is a bit extreme because of with the prices of smartphones today, everyone should have one…right? But we are talking about China not America, a totally different economic situation…right? Who really gets to enjoy this new innovative fusion of fashion and technology?
- Kanye West: http://www.thisis50.com/profiles/blogs/all-the-masks-kanye-wore-yeezus-kick-off
- Masks: http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health/article/1254691/fashion-forward-face-masks-big-hit-china-amid-soaring-air-pollution
- Respero: http://www.myhealthbeijing.com/china-public-health/respro-vs-totobobo-which-mask-works-better-for-air-pollution/
- Totobobo: http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2013/04/whered-you-get-that-mask/totobobo/
- Airwaves: http://www.ecouterre.com/airwaves-face-mask-filters-pollution-crowdsources-air-quality-data/
- 3M mask: http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2013/04/whered-you-get-that-mask/3m_mask/