Sunday, September 24, 2023
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    Another Kind of Face Mask


    There’s a lot to see at fashion week. Blink (or scroll too fast) and you’ll miss the details: feathered bags, futuristic sunglasses, fork jewelry. All month long, we’ll spotlight the things we saw that surprised or delighted us.

    Y2K fashion is back. It has been back. It’s the reason low-rise skirts returned to the runway and funky hair clips took over TikTok.

    Butterflies, naturally, are part of the comeback story. Who can forget the beaded, barely-there butterfly top Mariah Carey wore on the red carpet in 2000? Not Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo or Saweetie, who’ve all worn reimagined versions of the vintage design.

    But here’s the thing Piotrek Panszczyk, a founder of Area, reminded us this week, when showing his butterfly-filled collection: These bugs go way back.

    “There’s something surrealist about the butterfly,” he said. “We actually started firstly thinking of the 1920s,” when butterfly motifs were popular with artists like Erté and the French couturier Paul Poiret.

    Area’s aesthetic is campy, sexy and almost always crystal-encrusted — Simone Biles wore a nearly 100-pound Area gown to the Met Gala in September — and in Mr. Panszczyk’s hands, that’s how butterflies are treated. They are giant buckles on gold chain belts; a hem-skimming cutout on black hot pants; a rainbow brassiere, inspired by the Emanuel Ungaro crop top worn by Ms. Carey, with matching bottoms.

    But the collection’s standout butterfly comes in the form of a masquerade-style mask that was made, Mr. Panszczyk said, with 350 handset crystal stones. Worn like surrealist eyeglasses, the mask extends several inches beyond one’s face. It is so large and so bright that it effectively turn the wearer’s head into a neon sign — one that allows her to both hide her face and scream: “Look at me.”

    It is no wonder the collection was inspired by showgirls: performers who are meant to be watched but never really seen.

    The crystal masks are a reminder, too, that face masks weren’t always the protective, filtered, mandatory kind. In another time — like, 100 years ago — they were decorative, fun, just for show.

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