A large part of thinking about fashion is thinking about excuses to buy another pair of Birkenstocks or next season’s newest variation on a ’60s swing coat. But with Zlil Lazarovich‘s latest offering, you should be hoping you never have a reason to wear it for its intended purpose. The industrial designer’s “Social Gas Mask” is part of her final project at Israel’s Shenkar College of Design, and is the first piece of chemical warfare headwear designed with form as firmly in mind as function. i.e., it’ll protect you without making you look like a mutant aardvark or the long-lost member of Justin Bieber’s paparazzi-pranking mask posse.
Lazarovich was only four years old during the 1991 Gulf War that made panic alarms and chemically-sealed rooms a common occurrence, and it was this that inspired her current project. “These events and memories, which are not unique to myself but are also a part of the collective memory of all Israelis, made me realize how important it is to maintain a sense of normality even in the most stressful times,” she tells Vocativ. Unlike previous designs, “the Social Gas Mask has a number of features designed to offer an empowering image and a positive experience.”
It’s interesting the use of fashion to improve social conditions rather than to commented on social conditions. Designer Phillip Plein, who’s recent antics include enlisting Rita Ora and Angel Haze to perform at his shows, showed a collection last year that saw models don gas masks and carry guns down the runway in Milan. The response was an almost unanimous “not cool.” Fellow Berlin designer Irene Luft showed off a bedazzled version during Berlin Fashion Week that also draw a few furrowed brows.
It often takes one removed from the world of fashion to make an intelligent artistic comment on its intersection with chemical warfare. In 2011 Dutch artist Diddo designed a series of high fashion gas masks incorporating Louis Vuitton and Gucci logos as a salute to consumerism and the idea of brands suffocating our daily lives. As Diddo said of his project, “’Gasmasks’ plucks the strings of the satirically subversive; prodding the basest motivators in all of us, and artfully allowing us to simultaneously feel both disgust and material yearning.”
Along with steampunk goggles and neon dreadlocks, gas masks also play a significant role in the wardrobes of cyber goths — and of cyber goths in the making. This one comes from an Etsy company called Cyb3rburn:
And at the complete wrong end of the stupidity spectrum is the memetastic gas mask Justin Bieber insisted on wearing around London at one point last year to “confuse paparazzi” or make some sort of statement none of us understand. Probably because there is nothing to understand.
Lazarovich’s mask is still in the concept stage, and she doesn’t currently have plans to put it into production. But if the apocalypse really is imminent, you might as well look good in it.