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Pandemics don't stop fast fashion: Brands sell face masks during crisis

Fast fashion brands like Fashion Nova are selling face masks during the COVID-19 crisis for as much as $14.99. On their site, the brand states the masks will keep you healthy and fashionable.  – Photo by Salma HQ

Fast fashion brands are notorious for being problematic. For starters, most fast fashion brands have sweatshops where workers make little to nothing and work under horrible conditions. We also can’t forget to note that fashion is the second-most polluting industry on earth. 

With this track record, we couldn’t be too shocked when fast fashion brands came under fire recently for selling face masks in the midst of a global crisis. 

In other words, they’re profiting off of a global pandemic by selling face masks — a necessity for people during this time. Being that face masks are small pieces of cloth and therefore easy to be mass-produced, I guess fast fashion companies just couldn’t help themselves. 

They do it with tiny crop tops, why wouldn’t they do it with a little face mask?

While this might seem like simple supply and demand, this points to a larger issue: the profiting off of human suffering. After all, this isn’t spring break where hotels upcharge rooms. It’s a global pandemic where hospitals are running out of masks and people are dying due to lack of equipment. 

While not everyone wants to sit at a sewing machine and make a mask or find a do-it-yourself option, people need them and some just don’t have the resources to get them. At this point, masks are mandatory and necessary — they’re not a fashion statement. 

There is something that just doesn’t sit right about companies creating edits on their websites for shoppers. It’s almost a “how to look cute during a global pandemic” edit that includes loungewear.

I’m guilty of browsing, but still feel uneasy about it. 

One face mask requires a thin piece of fabric that’s 8 by 14 inches — they’re inexpensive, and the problem is the people who need it the most aren’t going to be on Fashion Nova shopping for a monogrammed mask. 

Companies that profit millions a year should take this time to help others, especially when it’s a life or death situation for some people. How could a company with the resources decide to use its resources for its own profits rather than for the well-being of others? 

It’s greedy, but it’s not surprising. This issue not only points to greed, but also to foolishness. Because people are buying them and taking selfies with faux Swarovski crystal masks as if medical staff aren’t wearing garbage bags in lieu of face masks due to the shortage of equipment. 

But there are some designers that exemplify what fast fashion brands should be doing during this time. 

Michael Costello, is an LA designer who is personally producing 150 masks per day and donating them to healthcare facilities. 

Additionally, AST Sportswear Inc. donated more than 5,000 masks to hospitals, healthcare facilities and nursing homes in California as well as in Michigan, Texas, Nevada and other states, according to the LA Times. “It plans to donate an additional 50,000 by the end of this week,” according to the article.

These designers give us hope, but I can’t help but feel weird about the selling of face masks by fast fashion companies. 

In all, while there are much bigger things to worry about during this time, this is completely unsettling and sad. It praises individualism and consumerism — two things this global pandemic has shined a light on. While people are being devastated and bodied by the coronavirus disease, others, including businesses, see it as a gateway for personal gain. 

We saw it when people bought out shelves of hand sanitizer and tried to sell it at a ridiculous price, and we’re seeing it now when companies are selling necessities for profit rather than donating them to help in need. 

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