This article was written by a citizen journalist based in Tehran using the pseudonym Maryam Javadi.
A year on from the outbreak of coronavirus, there are a huge range of masks available to the public. No longer are people limited to simple disposable masks. One only has to drive through the streets of Tehran to see all kinds of face masks: satin, suede, leather masks embroidered and decorated with jewelry, and simple masks featuring the logos of famous global brands. There are color masks matching a variety of clothes and bags, scarves and headbands, all fashionable now as the world continues to live with coronavirus. Years on from now, people will look back and remember the virus that hit the world. They might also remember how the world of fashion responded to it.
Her eyes are beautifully made up, just visible above her white mask. In her hands, she holds another mask, a stunning white leather one with the logo of Louis Vuitton that she displays to the public. "Ladies, beautiful flowers!” She shouts out. “Just listen to me for a minute. Today, in addition to cosmetics, I also have a mask, beautiful and quality masks for only 15,000 tomans."
She is standing alongside the Sadeghieh-Bazaar line in the Tehran metro; the vendors' booths are set up in the station, many of them selling masks in different colors and with various designs.
She takes off her own mask for a few seconds, revealing her lipstick and the rest of her immaculate make-up. "I have heard people saying that in the time of coronavirus, the sale of women's lipstick has fallen; they wear masks and do not make up their lips underneath. But they don’t know that we do our make up anyway, for ourselves."
She replaces the white mask with a red leather mask bearing the Gucci logo. "I have brought you masks from all brands: Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Dior ... only 15,000 tomans.”
Shahla the Mask-Maker
This, of course, is a new commodity, ushered in by the pandemic. "We also sew masks for brides and grooms," says Shahla, who owns a bridal gown service and studied sewing and clothing design at vocational school. "It is widely used for photography. White masks with embroidered guipure, pearl, jewelry and embroidery, which are usually matched with decorations on dresses, are for the bride, and simple black and white satin masks are suitable for the groom. Of course, sometimes they give us the color of the groom's tie and we match the mask with the tie."
She says the price of bridal and groom masks in her shop varies between 100,000 and 200,000 tomans [$4-$8].”It depends on the amount of work; the more we work on it, the higher the price.”
As Shahla suggests, photography studios are also buying up masks for brides and grooms.
Shahla says the mask has become a sign of the pandemic — and, in a funny way, love. “I think the bride and groom mask is a symbol of love in the time coronavirus,” she says.
Photography studios also have hats, gloves and other accessories for their clients. "Of course, the masks are for sale in the studio and if the bride and groom want to take a photo with the mask, they have to buy it."
She says people are also choosing masks to “match their evening dresses.”
"You saw an example of a mask being matched with a dress at the presidential inauguration in the United States. We also match the mask with the clothes. Maybe no one wears a mask during the whole wedding or the party, but in the coronavirus period, at weddings and in public, a mask is mandatory for all guests except the bride and groom, and it is better to wear a mask with a dress that has a more beautiful combination. When we have to use something, how much better it is to make it beautiful."
Shahla sells masks with several layers, and says the inner layers are chosen from lighter fabrics. "We saw that the experts recommended that the mask be tested by making sure it could not extinguish the flame of a match flame by blowing through the mask. I tried this when sewing my first mask and made sure it was thick enough to block the disease."
Although their masks are washable, Shahla recommends dry cleaning. "These masks are hand-made and look like evening clothes. Do we wash our evening dresses at home? Also, these masks are for ceremonies and are not used on a daily basis.”
Sarah’s Matching Scarves and Masks
Sarah sells scarves online, and has recently begun matching fabric masks with her scarves. She advertises her wares on and Instagram. "I started sewing scarves and shawls in 2018," she says. "For a while, I matched scarves and shawls with bags, beautiful cloth bags that looked like scarves. Now masks have been added to these sets."
She explains that her masks are three-layered and washable, they cost 45,000 tomans: "We use quality and anti-allergy fabric so that it is not damaged by washing."
This winter, Sarah has matched the mask with winter scarves too. "In some cases, I match the masks with a bow tie and in some cases with a scarf. Customers have really welcomed the idea.” She says customers know this is what they have to do. "I did not want to make masks this year, but I think we still need them," she says.
Reza’s Headbands and Turbans (Including Turbans for Women)
Reza runs a shop selling scarves and gloves, as well as headbands and turbans. He also has masks, which he matches with the headbands and turbans. The turbans are tight and completely cover the hair; some people use them instead of scarves.
Reza laughs and says: “The turban is the Instagram fashion. It has become very popular now," he says. “When they cracked down on Instagram influencers because of their hijab, many women on Instagram turned to turbans and it made them fashionable. Now some women are wearing them on the streets. The mask is mandatory. The set of turbans and masks becomes interesting. The mask and headband sets are also very well received."
Reza’s mother and sister make the headbands, turbans and masks from home, he says. “The coronavirus outbreak has made my sister jobless. She is a tour leader, but what tours are being held now? My mother is a housewife. The idea of making masks, turbans and headbands came to my sister and she began working at home with my mother. Thank God, the idea has been welcomed."
His headbands are priced at 20,000 tomans and he sells the masks for 30,000 tomans. The price of a turban varies depending on the type of work."The simplest one costs 50,000 thousand tomans,” he says, “but I have sold those that have manual work on them and are more difficult to make, for 200,000 tomans."
His mother and sister also embroider cartoon characters on small masks suitable for children. "These are 70,000 tomans," he says. "It's a lot of trouble. Kids love it, but adults prefer simple small color masks because of the lower prices. These masks are 25,000 tomans.”