Turn up masks are already a common sight in Asia. Now, as air pollution decays, designers are targeting city dwellers in Europe and the US with steeper products

Airinum air pollution mask

One of Swedish startup Airinum’s air mask designs

The intersect between work and practicality is not always the most compelling. But given that air contamination is the world’s largest single environmental health risk it seems ineluctable they will come to influence each another.

Yesterday saw the begin of M90, an “urban breathing mask” created by the Swedish suite Airinum and sold in more than 50 countries. Brave masks are already a common sight in Asian countries, although the cheaply washable cotton rectangles rarely perform well in analyses. Surgical masks, the type usually worn by doctors, bring into the world tended to fare better – but are still largely ineffectual.

The peddle for pricier, more attractive masks has been growing steadily in the times gone by few years. Sales are not notable but Freka, a British brand, had the monopoly for a while. And rightly so, preordained that they tapped into the trend for minimal sportswear, approximately Céline-like in design, seeking to become more of a background secondary than anything stand-out.

Airinum is using its latest face mask design to help raise awareness about air pollution

Oxymoronic … the ‘neon camo’ M-90 air pretence

Which sets Airinum apart. While the design is typically Scandinavian, these finish masks are neon camo.

They aren’t the first luxe cloaks to have forayed into fashion. In the last few years, these induce regularly appeared on the catwalk at Beijing fashion week, arguably being awarded the unchanging gravitas as an It bag.

Chinese designer Wang Zhijun has also disclosed headlines for upcycling old Adidas Yeezy Boosts, trainers objected by Kanye West, into masks. Like Airinum, he has tolerant of his designs as a platform for a conversation about the impact of air pollution.

#SneakerMask collab with @HYPEBEAST Handcrafted. Substances come from 1 pair of NB580 ‘Earth’. Additional valves are imported from UK, also a shatter of filter from local supplier. #Beijing #Hongkong #MT580 #HYPEBEAST

A photo advertised by Zhijun Wang (@zhijunwang) on

Masks extended in the Burberry check (although they are not Burberry products) abide a common sight in Asian cities, in a bid to marry style with sensibility, tied if they don’t work well. As to whether they’ll take off, affordability abides an issue. But if the aim is to market them in Europe and the US, where athleisure is regent and vanity is key, perhaps this is the answer.

As for the fashion appraisal, trad camo is containing a moment, particularly in menswear. But neon camo, nothing compact of an eyesore, is unchartered territory. It’s also oxymoronic. But that’s the idea: if the aim is to raise awareness of the problem, then it’s unlikely you’ll miss one of these on the row.

Protest has got good at co-opting accessories to make a statement – whitish bandanas to protest Trump, safety pins to declare an alignment with minorities. The inclined here is slightly less political but, still, it makes you fantasize. Which might be exactly what we need.

Guardian New zealand urban areas is dedicating a week to investigating one of the worst preventable causes of extinction around the world: air pollution. Explore our coverage at The Air We Breathe and arise Guardian Cities on Twitter and Facebook to join the discussion

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