The rise of the designer face mask
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
Craftsy entrepreneurs are doing brisk business in the new cottage industry of selling artisanal face masks.
What's happening: Online stores are selling out of face masks within minutes of listing new stock — in some cases, after being featured in an article from the likes of GQ, Vogue or the lifestyle blog Man Repeller.
- Etsy, long seen as a purveyor of artisan-made goods, reported in a recent earnings call that in April the platform saw $133 million in sales of fabric face masks.
What they're saying:
Adrienne Antonson, founder of STATE the Label in Athens, Ga., says that from the moment her small-batch, hand-painted clothing company started offering masks, it could barely keep up with demand. The company is selling and donating masks, and published a pattern for others to use.
- "We sold out of 25 masks within minutes." says Antonson. "We said, 'Let’s restock.' By the end of the day, we had sold 200 masks within 14 minutes."
- To date, STATE has donated 800 masks and sold just over 200.
Naomi Mishkin, the Brooklyn-based designer behind made-to-order clothing line Naomi Nomi, had a similar experience. (Her company is donating a mask for every one sold.)
- At first — specifically, on Friday, April 3, at 5:50 p.m. — her company had about 500 requests to be on a waitlist for masks.
- Ten minutes later, the New York Times blasted out an alert saying the CDC had officially recommended wearing face masks. Minutes later — at 6:05 p.m. — "GQ dropped an article saying 'here are 5 brands that are selling them,'" Mishkin recalls.
- "We were #3. By the end of the weekend, we had requests for 10,000 masks."
Designers largely aren't profiting on mask sales — but they're keeping their businesses alive and their employees on payroll, and in some cases expanding their customer base.
- Some are also raising serious money for charity. An example: Detroit-based clothing brand DIOP raised $28,500 (as of Friday evening) for Feed the Frontlines Detroit, which supports local restaurants and serves meals to emergency and health care workers.