Masks can protect, disguise, decorate or entertain. They take on a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and are adopted in an array of different circumstances, from elegant masked balls to (stereotypical) bank robberies. Chosen by Nikolay Krasavin, this week’s Most Loved product is a mask of the most opulent variety; it featured in the Maison Martin Margiela haute couture A/W12 presentation – one of many in a range of collection-complementing colours – and is embellished with hundreds of giant, glimmering diamonds.
The word "mask" emerged in English in the 1530s, adapted from the Middle French “masque” meaning “a covering to hide or guard the face". Masks have been worn since antiquity, in both a ceremonial and practical context. As suggested, they are predominantly worn on the face but are sometimes used on another part of the body – Inuit women, for example, use finger masks during story telling and dancing. In European terms, Venice is the city most widely associated with mask wearing, a main attraction and key feature of its famous “Carnevale”. Usually embraced in a decorative sense, it seems some Venetians also exploited the anonymous side of masks – a law passed in 1339 forbade Venetians from wearing vulgar disguises and visiting nuns' convents while masked.
"Masks have long formed a signature part of the Margiela brand, an extension of the incognito nature of the design house’s notoriously private founder"
In cultural terms, masks have often been referred to as a source of inspiration. The form and decoration of African tribal masks fascinated artists such as Picasso and Matisse, clearly demonstrated in what are now dubbed their “primitivist” works. Many films have also relied on the marked visual impact of masks; what would Hannibal Lecter, Batman or Catwoman have been without their facial coverings? While in fashion, masks have long formed a signature part of the Margiela brand, an extension of the incognito nature of the design house’s notoriously private founder. Cloth, make-up and hair have been used respectively to shield models' identity in a number of past presentations, from the cotton muslin veils for S/S93 to the stocking scarves and flowing hair for S/S09. For A/W12 Rick Owens also employed masks to enhance his show, in the form of slashed balaclavas which he termed "brutalist veils”. Elsewhere, in his new campaign for Chanel Makeup, Peter Philips used mirrors to form sparkling masks that offset the new lipstick colour palette.
Here, we speak to Krasavin about why he chose to Love the Margiela mask, what he would pair it with and his favourite mask-featuring film...
Why did you choose to Love this Maison Martin Margiela Haute Couture mask?
I have a few good friends in the Margiela house and I like most of things they do a lot, from the idea and concept to the final piece. I also like that they have such a fresh imagination and make such crazy things for the haute couture collections.
If you owned this mask, what would you wear it with and where to?
I like masks, hats or special accessories for the face and head. I think it makes people look very special, even they’re wearing regular, simple clothes. If I had this mask, I'd love to use it when I'm DJing, to be different, not someone people would expect to see as a DJ. And I'd wear it with simple dark blue pants, a simple white or dark blue T-shirt, without any prints, and white sneakers from Martin Margiela or Lanvin.
From fashion, to parties, to tribal decoration, masks are used for many purposes. What's your favourite type of mask?
I put on a Vampire Ball event in Moscow and was inspired by Carine Roitfeld's Vampire Ball in Paris – she came to the Moscow one too. And we made masks for this event that I loved. I was inspired by Linda Farrow's Cat glasses for Luella, which I like a lot as a cult accessory.
Many films have featured distinctive masks, what's your favourite mask-starring film?
Eyes Wide Shut and The Dark Knight.
What is your favourite thing about Maison Martin Margiela as a design house?
I like how they play with materials which haven’t been used before in a clothing context; their shapes and forms, and their sense of humor; the ideas and trends that are completely different to the those of the main fashion houses. Even though Martin Margiela hasn’t been a part of the company for a long time, they still have charm and mystery that I like.
Text by Daisy Woodward