People's lives have changed inexplicably over the past year from the world debating a 'new normal' at the very start of the pandemic in 2020 to, a year on, experiencing that 'new normal' in a way that isn't even new anymore. Social distancing, masks and hand sanitiser are all common commodities associated with daily life, more so than ever before. A mask has almost become a bit like an extra limb; you'd feel lost without it, yet you're not quite sure when it'll go away, if it ever will.
And so, to celebrate one whole year since masks were first and foremostly advised by the government to be worn in all public spaces, the Westminster Menswear Archive has taken a brief look at their year-long involvement in everyday life and how they've evolved since that first wave. Opening on 11 May 2021 (a year exactly since Boris Johnson advised the UK on wearing masks in public spaces), the exhibition will feature examples from Balenciaga, Ahluwalia, Liam Hodges, Mulberry, Christopher Kane, Louis Vuitton and more, including a total of 52 unique face covers arranged in chronological order, examining how quickly the fashion industry adapted production, manufacturing, and online marketing to meet ever-evolving consumer demands.
Highlighting how masks have evolved from being a functional PPE object in short supply to becoming an everyday object worn by millions, the exhibition reflects on simple cloth face coverings, which once appeared to be unassuming and uncomplicated objects (not to mention rather 'unfashionable' in their nature), noting how quickly they've become a symbolic and contentious artefact.