As the fashion industry has watched sales plummet due to COVID-19, many brands have pivoted to produce the hottest item of the moment. Whether it’s an ethical fast fashion brand such as Reformation or a bargain bin retailer such as Old Navy, there’s a good chance that, if you sell clothing, you now sell masks. But the Japanese label Uniqlo, which does $20 billion in revenue a year, has been relatively quiet on this front. It has donated millions of pieces of personal protective equipment in Japan, but it hasn’t made masks for consumers—until now.
Uniqlo has confirmed with Fast Company and others that it will begin producing masks for the public soon, and they will be made out of the company’s Airism fabric. The base of Airism is cupro—which is technically a rayon, produced by recycling plant fibers through a highly industrialized process. The cupro is mixed with nylon for stretchiness, and, voilà, you have Airism.
Airism launched worldwide back in 2013 to be used in hundreds of undergarments produced by the company, and for good reason: It’s a stretchy, moisture-wicking, antimicrobial material. Fast-forward to 2020, and it’s used liberally across Uniqlo lines, in everything from lightweight hoodies to baby garments.
Uniqlo declined to comment on the pricing or availability of its Airism masks. But like most of Uniqlo’s offerings, Airism tends to be cheap. Airism underwear goes for around $8 a pair. Toddler tank tops dip to about $5 a shirt. It’s easy to imagine an Airism mask being priced somewhere in this range, or even cheaper, when it eventually goes on sale. But until then, there are other options for getting your very own mask that’s made from undergarments.