China is currently showcasing the collections of its next Guo Pei’s at Graduate Fashion Week in Beijing, and there’s one trend that’s more conspicuous than even the furriest flatforms. Four of China’s most promising rising designers are combing form, function, and a pinch of shock value into next season’s must-have accessory: a gas mask.
Multiple designers have accessorized their graduate collections with masks ranging from subtle to military-style. The students — who come from China Academy of Art, Dalian Polytechnic University, and Southwest University — are evidently not shy about making a political statement. One model also wore a dress screen-printed with the Barack Obama “Hope” poster by artist Shepard Fairey.
Gas masks on the runway aren’t an entirely new phenomenon. High profile attention seeker Phillipp Plein, who has previously enlisted LiLo and Azealia Banks to draw attention to his shows, sent out an army of models wielding guns and wearing masks for his Fall 2013 collection, earning a pretty resounding NOPE from pretty much everyone who bore witness. Irene Luft also caused controversy at Berlin Fashion Week in 2013 with chemical warfare-appropriate face accessoriesthat made models look like blingtastic aardvarks.
The accessories being shown by China’s new grads, however, seem just as concerned with boring old pragmatics. Beijing is a city so polluted that gas masks are used far more frequently for safetythan they are for getting stoned. In 2013 the government was forced to roll out emergency measures due to unprecedented levels of smog. It’s only natural that people should want to protect themselves without looking like extras in a B movie horror.
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