There’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to send Melbourne’s LGBTQI community into a frenzy than one which makes a fashion statement. After all, we’re responsible for keeping trends going like skinny jeans, chinos and florals. We also love accessories. Think handkerchiefs, collars, armbands and in some kink circles, even masks.

Mandatory mask wearing came into effect last Thursday, at midnight, as Melbourne grapples with an unprecedented Coronavirus threat. Despite a few Karen’s making waves on social media for refusing to follow the rules, Melbourne’s LGBTQI community has taken it all in its’ stride, and with an essence of fun.

The pandemic has seen ‘mask couture’ explode across Melbourne with people rushing out to buy unique and quirky designs. As a result, many queer creative folks have pivoted their traditional businesses in fashion and entertainment to producing masks in an assortment of designs, shapes, colours and fabrics.

Craig Braybrook is a Couturier in Melbourne’s suburb of Collingwood. “Usually I’m making wedding dresses this time of year with 50-100 dresses on the go at a time but because of COVID weddings have either been cancelled or pushed back. Many of my friends make masks. There will be a demand for a few months yet, so I thought why not, and the orders have just exploded!”

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 Due to the sudden demand Craig has also created a Facebook page and has a new website in the works for his new business, cutely titled HotFace.

“I haven’t been able to work for 12 weeks and was thinking I really need to make some money soon, so I’ve transformed my workshop here into a mask-making factory to keep up with all the orders.”

Among the half-made wedding dresses lining the room we now find a sea of colours, fabric and elastic with cut out lip designs, rainbows and love hearts as well as a whiteboard with order numbers increasing by the day.

“The most confronting thing for mask wearing for me is not being able to see people’s smile so if I can inject a bit of humour and make people smile under their masks then I’ve done my job!”

While sad news stories seem to have dominated the news headlines of late not all is doom and gloom if this latest cultural trend is anything to go by.

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