Quebec fashion designer Mathieu Caron launches line of masks inspired by Olympic skaters

MONTREAL — A Quebec fashion designer has launched a limited edition of high-end designer masks inspired by the costumes of professional figure skaters he typically dresses.

Mathieu Caron has been designing and manufacturing outfits for several years including the spectacular outfits worn by Canadian Olympic champ Tessa Virtue and world silver medallist Shoma Uno of Japan, among others.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, that material is being used to create designer masks — with profits going to the World Health Organization.

“We took the same materials as the skaters’ costumes, the same decorations, the same design, but we completely recreated the form to make masks,” said Caron, a Longueuil, Que.-based skatewear, dancewear, gown and wedding dress designer.

“My primary goal was to make sure that the artistic side could come to help a little, raise funds to make a difference and at the same time make a collection item a little more glamorous than a ordinary mask.”

The unique masks are not for all budgets — with the eight models costing between $150 and $300.

It hasn’t stymied interest in the masks. Japanese customers snatched up the items inspired by Uno’s costumes, which retailed for $200 to $250.

“I was surprised,” Caron admitted. “In times of crisis like this, I honestly didn’t think people had so much money to buy a mask.”

Caron said at the beginning, the idea was to design a maximum of 15 masks for each skater, but in Japan, they sold 70.

In three hours, 245 masks were sold, giving birth to the hashtag #Shomask in Japan, with stocks of the three models flying off the shelves.

When the items were first made available, a few masks were ready to ship. But given the demand, Caron had to move quickly to fill orders.

The goal wasn’t a big marketing campaign, Caron said.

“It was more an artistic contribution to do our part with some members of my team who also got involved in the decoration,” Caron said. “But with everything we have sold, we will not be unemployed for the next few weeks.”

The fabrics come from the same materials as the skaters’ outfits and are very breathable material, with padding included to give them shape and structure.

The masks are made of cotton and polyester fibres.

“Now, is it something medical? Not at all,” Caron said. “We would rather call it a fashion accessory, a collector’s item.”

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