How masks have caught the imagination of apparel brands

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Published: June 15, 2020 7:25 AM

Ever since the government mandated the use of masks, fashion labels have started selling reusable cloth masks of varied strengths

Fashion labels expect that consumers will seek ‘self-expression’ through their masks.Fashion labels expect that consumers will seek ‘self-expression’ through their masks.

The new ubiquitous protective accessory — the face mask — has been given a makeover. Ever since the government mandated the use of masks to curb the spread of Covid-19, fashion labels have started selling reusable cloth masks of varied strengths. Brands such as Fabindia, Jack & Jones, Allen Solly, The Souled Store, Wrogn, HRX, FabAlley and Wildcraft are counting on people moving from their rudimentary homemade masks, made during the lockdown, to professionally manufactured ones.

On average, a single mask costs Rs 100-150, and a set of three is priced at Rs 400-500. Premium masks could cost Rs 900-1,500 depending on the designer. Most manufacturers are selling masks in packs of three, five, seven and 10. E-commerce companies such as Amazon and Myntra have dedicated sections for pandemic-related essentials like masks. On Myntra alone, there are over 70 brands offering face masks.

Fashion labels expect that consumers will seek ‘self-expression’ through their masks. The trend has also aroused interest among fashion designers like Masaba Gupta, and Abirr and Nanki Papneja.

Now trending

FabAlley’s co-founder Tanvi Malik expects face masks will be in demand for at least four to six months. “As we begin to move out of the lockdown, we anticipate that people will aim at maintaining the highest hygiene standards. They will use masks to carry out all their daily outdoor activities,” she says. FabAlley has sold about 20,000 masks through its various e-commerce partners in the last one month.

The business opportunity for brands is significant, as the demand is at the household level, and consumers are expected to own a couple of masks per person. Besides, as Devangshu Dutta, chief executive, Third Eyesight, says, “Unlike the handkerchief, which mainly stays hidden, a mask is always on display.” A trendy looking mask, hence, would find many takers.

Fabindia, which is selling a pack of five masks at Rs 150 and a set of four pleated masks at Rs 170, has doubled its mask production capacity. “We now manufacture six lakh units every month, and are looking to ramp this up further,” says a Fabindia spokesperson. It is also offering masks customised for children.

Wildcraft, an outdoor gear brand, has launched a range of masks called W95, with filtration properties, priced at Rs 450 for a pack of three. The company is currently producing 10 lakh masks a day. It has started manufacturing colourful variants of masks, instead of its earlier black ones.

Going all out

Brands are leaving no stone unturned to make the most of this opportunity. Gaurav Dublish, co-founder, Wildcraft, is working on expanding the company’s distribution network. “We have ramped up our distribution partnerships from 75 at the beginning of March, to 580 by the end of May. We have increased our store partnerships from 5,000 to one lakh in the same time frame. By the end of June, we hope to have 10 lakh points of sale,” Dublish adds.

The demand is such that brands are forging unusual partnerships. For instance, Malik says that other than Amazon, Myntra and Nykaa, there is a huge scope for sales through partnerships with pharmacists and online grocery stores. Wildcraft is even exploring tie-ups with milk and vegetable distribution networks, retail networks and mobile recharge shops.

Experts believe that masks could be an immediate and short-term opportunity that may fade away when a vaccine is developed, or when the population achieves herd immunity. “Although the value of the product is low, the margin for masks is healthy. This is an opportunity for brands in the apparels sector, that have lost out on sales in the last few months, to revive business,” Dutta says.

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