‘Masks are now becoming a fashion statement’

Ronald A. Hurley
Zavk Pinsent uses reproduction period fabrics to create his masks inspired by historical fashion (Photo: Digby Pinsent)

A historical fashion buff and tailor known for his bespoke Regency-era outfits has turned his sartorial eye to the most modern accessory of them all: the face mask.

Zack Pinsent, whose penchant for wearing top hats, breeches, collared waistcoats and the occasional powdered wig has seen him dubbed a “Jane Austen superfan” and 21st-century dandy in his native England, has started creating facial coverings using special reproduction fabric prints in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The three-layered masks were initially conceived as a small quarantine project for the owner of Pinsent Tailoring, who is typically commissioned by historical museums and individuals who share his passion for authentic historical fashion. But due to social distancing restrictions, he’s been unable to see his clients; what’s more, a broken elbow suffered right before lockdown left him struggling to physically take on more advanced sewing projects. So he whipped up a batch of 20 or so masks using floral-printed fabric scraps in his studio, thinking he might sell a few. Now, thanks to support on social media from the likes of Emma director Autumn de Wilde and a demand for standout designs in this new era of mask mandates, he’s sold hundreds, with a backlog of requests for more. (Masks cost £25, or around $33 U.S., plus worldwide shipping costs, and can be ordered via email to [email protected])

“Masks are now becoming a fashion statement, as well as a necessity,” Pinsent tells Yahoo Life.

By giving his creations a fashionable spin steeped in history — say, a fabric design that hails from the 1770s — Pinsent says his customers have a “good talking point” right under their eyes, not to mention extra motivation to follow mask-wearing guidelines.

“What’s great is that I’ve had messages from people saying, ‘I’ve hated all the face masks I’ve had to wear, but I love wearing yours. I feel great wearing it.’ That’s amazing in and of itself because it means people are actually wearing them,” he notes.

Pinsent has been dressing in the style he describes as “historical fashion” — with a preference for looks dating from the late 18th century to the early 19th century — since the age of 14. He initially relied on vintage clothing before learning to design his own period pieces a few years later.

“I had no desire or love for what modern clothing had to offer,” Pinsent, now 26, says. “[So I was] forging my own path through that, thinking, ‘These are the things that have been offered to me as a guy, and they’re crap, so I’m going to make my own stuff.”

His masks are no less committed to historical accuracy. Had Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy worn a mask, it’s hard to imagine it looking much different than a Pinsent creation, from the fabric to the linen lining. Pinsent notes that the “wonder fiber” linen isn’t simply a material that’s stood the test of time throughout centuries, but is more eco-friendly than materials like cotton.

From the vantage point of 2020, it’s uncertain how the future and a life beyond ever-present masks will play out. Pinsent, meanwhile, is focused on looking back, not forward — at least as far as his devotion to the “period aesthetic” is concerned.

“I’d say it’s a dandyism thing, but for me, I just see it as my clothes,” he says.

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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