Designers cash in on 'swine flu fashion'


Posted at Jun 15 2009 10:40 PM | Updated as of Jun 17 2009 02:00 AM

MANILA - Two designers have decided to put a "friendly face" on the A(H1N1) pandemic by designing and selling creative flu masks online.

Designer Irina Blok, who has worked as a creative director for online bigwigs like Google and Yahoo!, sells handmade white cotton "swine flu fashion masks" in eye-catching silkscreened prints like a pair of juicy red lips and a bushy black mustache.

"With all the paranoia about swine flu, I think there is an opportunity to do something cool - design fashion surgical masks! Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, they can save your life. Well, not really, they mostly just look good," Blok playfully jots down on her website.

The designer said that although the swine flu masks are purely for cosmetic purposes, the project itself indirectly helps combat "swine flu."

Proceeds from the masks, priced at US$10 (plus an extra $4 for shipping), is meant to benefit Children International, a non-profit humanitarian organization for impoverished children, and its efforts in helping Mexico cope with the A(H1N1) pandemic. Other mask designs include leopard prints, a mock electrical tape gag, a smiling skull, and a mask with the words "oink!" emblazoned in bright pink letters.

Netherlands-born Samira Boon, meanwhile, is also selling "Get Well Soon Masks" in 15 different types of designs from customized Hanshin Tiger masks to monkey mouth prints.

One mask even sports a print of plump red lips that can be sealed or unzipped with an actual zipper. The masks were reportedly designed during the height of SARS and bird flu outbreaks.

Boon's website says that the sterile white surgical masks inspired her to "make it more cheerful and funny while still serving its purpose." The Tokyo-based design company sells the mask collection in select shops in Japan, Europe, Canada, and the United States.

During the early stages of the pandemic, a New York-based ad agency called DIGO also reportedly came up with its own line of humorous designer masks which became popular in the United States.

One of the most ubiquitous designs was one of a bright pink pig's snout, while other favorites include a mask with a print of a mouth with a cigar at one corner.

"When we saw swine flu panic taking hold, we felt that re-envisioning the face mask, this icon of fear, into a canvas for more creative, playful sentiments was a way to say we have nothing to fear but fear itself," Mark DiMassimo, DIGO's Chief Executive Officer and chief creative officer, told Reuters.

The hand-painted masks, priced at $100, are being sold on DIGO's website and all proceeds will reportedly go to an unspecified charity.

The World Health Organization reported that as of June 12, 2009, there are over 29,699 cases of A(H1N1) around the world with less than 150 deaths. In the Philippines, the Department of Health said the country has 193 cases of influenze A(H1N1), with 33 patients sent home after recovering.

The public was advised to observe personal hygiene measures like hand washing and covering the nose and mouth when coughing. Those experiencing flu-like symptoms should stay at home for at least a week and take lots of rest and fluids.

Local health department officials strongly encouraged those working at hospitals and those with cough, fever, runny nose, and sore throat to wear protective surgical masks. The general public, meanwhile, need not wear masks at this time. With a report from Reuters. Photos from Irina Blok and Samira Boon's official websites.