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With a newfound demand for facial protection pieces, talented Filipino fashion designers take on the challenge and create functional and stylish masks for everyday use—here is a list of my favorites so far

The “new normal” has become the most overworked statement of 2020. What exactly is the new normal? Regardless of gender, race, age, religion, or socioeconomic status, everyone is affected. While the rest of the world opens up and returns to a state of “back to normal”, the Philippines is yet to open its doors like its foreign counterparts. 

Wearing a mask has suddenly become the new normal, a prerequisite and necessary precaution whenever you leave your home. While in Hong Kong, Paris, and other famous metropolises, most seem to have gotten back to a semblance of normalcy as malls, parks, and restaurants opened up. We even see people not wearing masks in often-crowded public spaces.  But one thing is for sure, in the Philippines—more so in Greater Manila Area—masks will stay most probably until the end of the year or until a vaccine is invented (hopefully, the latter comes first).

As most Filipinos would agree, it is better to be safe than sorry. The fashion industry has responded to this new normal by creating masks that not only function well but look aesthetically pleasing too. While the protection of their employees its top priority, an effective way to pivot from the slump will secure the livelihood of their staff and tailors. And what better way to adapt to the new normal but to do it in style. For sure, masks will be more in-demand as we further open up our cities and eventually, our country. That being said, I have chosen my top picks based on chicness, craftsmanship, comfort, and quality.

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John Herrera

John once again is making us Filipinos proud in London. His masks have been featured by media outlets in London such as Glamour,  Culture Whisperer, amongst other famous titles. John, a Vogue-featured designer, is making exclusive masks for the UK-based online shopping site, “The Mask Collective.” I had the opportunity to be able to use one of John’s masks from this collection, and his top-stitched neoprene mask is truly a stunner.  It is very comfortable and friendly to the skin as the inner layer is made of cotton jersey. The ear bands are elastic and soft for the ear. This washable mask is at the top of its class for its amazing combination of chic and comfort.

Rosanna Ocampo

This uber-stylish, talented, and gorgeous fashion designer has been a favorite of Manila’s most chic. Her fascination with textures and details in her craft makes her style truly unique with her aesthetic becoming more appealing to the discerning.  With her impeccable craftsmanship and limitless creativity having transcended into creating facial masks, she makes ones that are truly one of kind and I daresay, must-haves. In a league of its own as it functions as both a keepsake and remembrance of these unusual times.  The mask is hand embroidered and made from high-quality jacquard and linen. Every detail is truly made “with heart” as she says.  You can spot her mask from afar, and one would not pass without admiring it.

Mark Bumgarner

World-class, cool, and extremely talented are just some of the many adjectives that I can think of to describe Mark Bumgarner. s someone who can create the most stylish evening wear—gowns, dresses, you name it, he is considered a favored designer of Manila’s elite.  As the new normal prohibits social gatherings, balls, and parties, Mark responded to the health crisis by channeling his artistry to making one of the most fashionable masks and PPEs available in Manila right now. The masks are made from repurposed fabric from previous collections. It is made of 4 layers— the top layer uses premium fabric, followed by a water repellant layer, a breathable lining fabric, and a utilitarian pocket. Clearly, much thinking and ingenuity were put in the development of his masks. The limited production of masks (and PPEs) is crafted with the highest quality fabrics and superb craftsmanship.

Rhett Eala

Setter of trends and creator of iconic pieces, Rhett Eala also delved into designing masks in the advent of the global pandemic. Rhett is known as a designer for elegant, feminine, and fashionably sophisticated evening wear and RTW pieces. Ever passionate about his craft, he began creating masks for his widely diverse and ever-loyal clientele.  We all know that Rhett loves prints as he so expressed in his RTW collections of blouses, jackets, and robes.  His collection of masks are made from his unique printed cloths converted into nice-fitting and stylish masks.  His prints are truly charming, fun, and playful.

Charina Sarte

Charina, a Paris-based Filipino designer, is known for feminine and sassy sartorial pieces that celebrate the women of today—chic, empowered, full of poise, and ever charming. This is what this designer represents in her creations and collections.  A Charina Sarte dress is a staple for this type of woman. And what better way to respond to the new normal by creating masks that complement their personality and their Charina dresses. Her cotton and chambray masks are sewn using her signature fabrics that are soft and made with breathable 100% cotton.  They are reusable, washable, and sustainable with elastic bands that stretch to fit. The fabric’s prints were carefully curated by her.  It is a mask that every Charina woman should have.

Kaayo

This brand, created by Marga Nograles, reinvented chic with a tribal twist. A unique and admirable fashion concept that does not only create fashionable wears but helps and aims to provide a source of livelihood for Mindanao tribes. Kaayo Tboli masks are hand-beaded and made from high-quality materials from the region. It has the perfect snug fit with a pocket lining where you can put a filter.  For every purchase, one will be donating 3 plain masks to the front-liners.  So buying Kaayo masks means hitting two birds with one stone—stylishly protecting yourself from COVID-19 and also helping Mindanao’s tribes and front-liners. 

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