MASKED FASHION with crystal emerson

BY KIANA MORIDI

Sacrificing safety for style is not an option for local fashion designer, Crystal Emerson. In the trenches of a global pandemic, Emerson decided to use her sewing skills for a different purpose this time around. “With lockdowns and social distancing, I need a way to stay connected with my friends and family,” she says. “So many people have supported my journey of going back to school to pursue fashion design, so I discovered a way to show my appreciation.”

 

At the beginning of May, the fashion designer took to Facebook to ask followers if they would like her to create a mask. Within the first three minutes, 11 of her friends responded. “I was shocked that so many responded that I quickly, so I edited my original post to say that I would make a mask for the first 25 people who responded,” says Emerson. “I felt 25 people was a good amount to begin with.” By the end of July, Emerson had created 100 masks, all from repurposed fabric, each designed specifically for her friends and family.

 

Curated with individuality, Emerson views mask-making as a means to touch base with friends and family through pieces designed with meaning. “I design each mask for friends with their personality in mind,” says Emerson. “I feel that mailing a mask is a way to connect with a physical object that I created especially for them—I suppose you could say I’m creating my very own material culture with the people I love and miss.”

 

The best thing about Emerson’s masks? They come with some history. The fashion designer recently inherited her grandmother’s fabric remnants, which make for some seriously stylish masks. In addition to repurposing family fabric, Emerson also ordered fabric scraps from Liberty London, purchased some men’s dress shirts from Goodwill, and also created masks from vintage fabric purchased during Oklahoma Modernism Weekend a couple of years ago. “I’m very proud of the fact that I haven’t purchased fabric yardage for any of the masks I’ve created for friends and family,” she says. 

As for her favorite mask creation, it’s a bit difficult to choose from the funky chic options, as she loves each mask she’s made. “I worked really hard on my friend, Teri’s mask because she’s someone I really look up to,” says Emerson. “I made her a mask that was a nod to my recent clothing collection, Anytime Cowboy. It’s a kitschy cowboy-themed mask with bullets and a kitty cat on it—the perfect combination of wild and sweet, just like her!” Emerson has also made a mask that reads, “your breath stinks” on the outside of it—she’s just waiting for the right time to wear it.”

 

The secret behind creating the perfect mask, Emerson says, is all about flexibility and adaptation on the part of the wearer. “Medical professionals have had to deal with wearing masks for their entire careers, and you never hear them complain,” she says. “When I first started wearing masks, I was miserable. Now, they don’t seem as bad. Flexibility is our new zeitgeist.”