Behind the mask: how brands are responding to the ubiquity of the face mask

Aug 06, 2020

GDR Innovation Strategist Charlie Lloyd explores how brands are creating face masks with unique functionalities and designs to support their communities during the Covid-era.

Few things have become as ubiquitous so quickly as the face mask. Prior to the pandemic, face coverings only really existed as a B2C category in China and other Asian countries whose consumers were concerned about air pollution prior to the pandemic, and yet now they can be seen all around the world on consumers going about their daily lives.

As a result, cottage industries and brands from all sorts of different categories have pivoted to making masks to meet demand. At first the focus was simply to make as many masks as possible to protect the public, but in recent weeks we’ve seen brands starting to diversify the category to create face coverings that either tie in with their brand’s core proposition or help consumers to go about their lives more easily while wearing them.

From Adidas to Disney, this round-up of face mask innovations demonstrates the ways that brands are experimenting with new propositions as face coverings become more deeply engrained in the fabric of life.


An opportunity for storytelling


While most retailers kitted out their staff in non-descript, clinical face masks as they opened up after Covid-19 lockdown, London department store Selfridges used the new uniform item as a storytelling tool, creating reusable, sustainable fashion pieces for staff on its shop floor and head office.
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New tech-enhancements

Donut Robotics

The C-Face device from Donut Robotics is used in conjunction with a traditional fabric face mask and paired with an app on the wearer’s smartphone via Bluetooth. This allows it to transcribe everything the wearer says so they can contactlessly write a text message, or take notes, with the added option of being able to translate the text into eight different languages. The phone’s audio can also be used to amplify what the wearer is saying.
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Fashion integrations


Fashion brand Maaji has released a line called Protective Wear that integrates face masks into its usual designs. The range focuses on items people wear predominantly when they are out and about and includes hoodies, coats and backpacks. The protective element of each item is made from recycled PET bottles.
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Shield Clothing

Shield Clothing has launched a new tshirt on Kickstarter that has a mask built-in to the design. Sitting in a pocket high up on the back of the t-shirt in a design that offers a modern update on the hoodie, the mask can be taken out and worn whenever it needs to be, without any danger of it getting lost.
Click here to find out more.


Exercise in the Covid-era


Asics has designed a face mask for members of its running community who want to stay safe while exercising. The Runners Face Cover has air vents in it to ensure its users can breathe comfortably and is also made from quick-drying material, which is said to cool the air that comes into the mask.
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Adidas has started selling washable and reusable face masks, with a portion of the income generated from them going to Save The Children’s Global Coronavirus Response Fund.

The Face Cover is not medical grade, but positioned for those exercising outdoors. They are made from Adidas Primegreen – a high performance recycled fabric that is free from virgin plastic.
Click here to find out more.


Drinking in the potential

Ellen Macomber

New Orleans-based seamstress Ellen Macomber has created face masks with straw holes, so wearers can drink cocktails while taking precaution against Covid-19. Macomber initially created 30 to test demand and they sold out in less than an hour. She has now upped supply and has made them available in a variety of styles.
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Having a bit of fun


To make face masks more interesting and fun to wear, Disney has launched a range of reusable cloth masks for kids featuring its iconic characters. Each mask superimposes the mouth of the character on to the mouth of the wearer, so kids (or adults!) can enjoy pretending to be their favourite character while staying safe.
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Reykjavik-based artist Ýrúrarí designed a series of shocking and unconventional masks to bring some humour and joy to people whilst they cope with the difficulties of the coronavirus. The extreme masks, which are hand-knitted and purely decorative, are focused on amusing, bizarre or unexpected sculptural designs.
Click here to find out more.

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