Nigerian fashion designer Sefiya Diejomaoh loves to wear bright and bold clothes that match her personality. She believes the global pandemic shouldn’t hamper her sense of style.
The mask she wears, which has become a mandatory attire as Nigeria tries to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, is at the heart of the whole. The gold color, adorned with sparkling diamond jewelry, matches her floor-length dress.
“When you go out with a fancy mask or accessory like this, we don’t seem to be at war. It feels more fun,” said Diejomaoh as she dressed at her home in Lagos to meet a client.
Many African countries have made it compulsory to wear masks in public to prevent the spread of the sometimes fatal respiratory disease COVID-19.
Fashionistas in the continent’s biggest cities combine style and safety by wearing colorful masks, sometimes matching fabric to their clothes.
The effort to make masks stylish has also taken its place in other parts of the world. In places like Lebanon, businesses have gone from making furniture and clothing to flashy masks.
In Africa, this trend has an advantage for local tailors and designers who make masks.
Fashion designer Sophie Zinga, based in the Senegalese capital Dakar, said she decided to create organic cotton masks after realizing that some clothing protection measures might be needed over the next two years.
“We’re going to have to adapt and live with this virus,” she said.
“As a fashion designer, I think we’re going to have to integrate every outfit with fashion masks,” added Zinga, who created a digital platform for masks, fashionfightscovid19.com.
Far from Dakar, in Johannesburg’s commercial center in South Africa, the luxury leather accessories store Inga Atelier creates masks.
In a country that has introduced some of Africa’s toughest lockdown measures and has been left reeling from economic shock, its creative director said the move made sense.
“My business has been hit hard, so the retail business is stuck,” said Inga Gubeka. “We realized there was a huge shortage of masks that can be worn every day without having to throw them away.”
His company’s masks combine leather with colorful fabrics, including traditional South African Ndebele prints.
Returning to Lagos, Nigeria, as she adjusted her sparkling golden mask before heading to sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous city of 20 million people, Diejomaoh said that a small piece of cloth had become A way of expression.
“People going around with surgical masks is depressing,” she says. “I have to keep the status quo and be who I am regardless of the situation.”