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Designer Turns Gas Mask Into Haute Couture

Apr 13, 2010 – 4:10 PM
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Ben Muessig

Ben Muessig Contributor

(April 13) -- Just what does the fashion-forward trendsetter wear when her red carpet arrival is upstaged by a deadly nerve gas attack?

A cutting-edge accessory has left Mexican fashion lovers gasping for breath.

Designer Gianfranco Reni unveiled a crystal-coated gas mask at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Mexico City Monday, turning an iconic item from the Cold War era into a haute couture accessory for his military-inspired clothing line, titled "My Army."

"It's how I would dress my own army, but in a war of ego and vanity," Reni told AOL News. "I used an old gas mask and covered it with tiny crystals, making different forms and lines."

Though the shimmering piece of headgear might seem more at home on the catwalks than in the trenches, Reni insists the form follows the function.

"The mask is more a decorative piece, but it's made with a real gas mask, so it could be used for its original purpose," said Reni. "But with a touch of glamor."

Like many designers before him, Reni was influenced by military uniforms from different countries and time periods, but he has also said the line serves as a tribute to his mentor Alexander McQueen, who committed suicide two months ago. Reni once interned under the legendary British designer.

Reni isn't the first person to try to add some style to the anti-toxic respirators. Artist Diddo Velema has constructed mock designer gas masks adorned with patterns from famous brands like Louis Vuitton as commentary on war and the "culture of consumption."

And fashionistas in Asia who were afraid of contracting the SARS virus in 2003 began purchasing surgical masks emblazoned with well-known patterns from brands like Gucci, Burberry, Versace and Nike, though most of the designs were knockoffs, according to the Times of London.
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