Last month, an Off-White face mask priced more than $1,000 on Farfetch began to circulate on Twitter and Instagram. The mask, with Off-White’s signature X logo on its front, was the subject of hundreds of outraged posts, prompting Farfetch to remove the mask (which was offered by a third-party reseller) and send an official response, noting the retailer had “blocked sales of face masks at excessive prices.” In Lyst’s first-quarter index, that very mask was named the “hottest men’s product” and Off-White the “hottest brand.”
Over the first quarter of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic reached its global apex, Lyst (e-commerce aggregator) estimated that searches for masks increased 496%, with Off-White’s logo style being the most popular. “At a time when consumers around the world have found themselves confined to their homes, seeking connections online, Off-White’s loyal and highly engaged social following has proven invaluable,” the report continues. Brand loyalty and direct-to-consumer communication is something Off-White founder Virgil Abloh touted during the Vogue Global Conversations earlier this month, proving his off-the-cuff social media strategy is working at retail level.
Is it fair for companies to profit from face masks, which are now recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, should be fashionable?
It’s likely that as the spread of the novel coronavirus continues, more and more brands will shift to making fashion-skewing styles for a profit, while brands that already made face masks, like Off-White (regular retail price $95) and Marine Serre ($295, with a built-in air filter) will continue to produce their long-term styles.