‘If we must wear masks, then let them be glorious!’

‘If we must wear masks, then let them be glorious!’

Designed by architect and designer Tosin Oshinowo and textile and furniture designer Chrissa Amuah in collaboration with Lexus, this collection of headpieces merges concepts of protection, ornamentation, functionality and celebration, drawing inspiration from a mix of cultural influences

Masks have become a ubiquitous health necessity. Formerly only commonplace in most Asian cultures and used as a symbol of courtesy, if one should be experiencing a malady, the face mask is now globally recognised as a form of protection, while also signifying civic responsibility.

This multicultural dialogue forms the basis of a conceptual design collaboration between the architect and designer Tosin Oshinowo, textile and furniture designer Chrissa Amuah and Lexus, who have come together to create a collection of masks designed as headpieces, unveiled at Design Miami. Exploring the ideas of protection, ornamentation, functionality and celebration, the headpieces present an artistic alternative to the utilitarian face coverings in a move that celebrates the world’s collective desire to move through the pandemic together. Named ‘Freedom to Move’, the collaboration also draws from a mix of cultural influences, identifying unexpected similarities and dialogues in materials, textures, colours and craftsmanship.

Textile and furniture designer Chrissa Amuah, left, and architect and designer Tosin Oshinowo, right. Photography: Spark Creative

With human movement greatly redefined this year, Oshinowo and Amuah took the opportunity to reconsider the functionality of masks today, against the traditions of protection and adornment across global cultures. ‘As nomadic beings, it is unnatural to stand still, and we wanted to reconfigure how we move in a positive way, in spite of the restrictions of motion the world now finds itself in,’ says Amuah.
 
With Oshinowo based in Lagos, Nigeria and the collaboration taking place for the most part there, the designers put the African context at the fore. Lexus’ key design philosophies, such as the Japanese notions of omotenashi (exceptional hospitality) and takumi (expert craftsmanship), were also integral to the creative process.
 
The collection’s three mark designs, named ‘Egaro’, ‘Pioneer Futures’ and ‘Ògún’, each employ a wide variety of materials, such as bronze, brass, leather and acrylic, with further details such as intricate hand beading, laser etching and embroidery using the traditionally West African tinko method. Featuring aspects crafted by traditional artisans, fused with 3D printed elements, each headpiece is a poetic fusion of past and present. Each mask also features transparent panels, which facilitate communication – a common frustration experienced with most masks today. 

The Egaro mask design by Oshinowo and Amuah for Lexus. Photography: Mark Cocksedge

‘In the midst of a global pandemic, we all are acutely aware of the head as both hostage to and host of an invisible adversary,’ reads a design statement by the pair. ‘Thinking about the masks that we all now wear for daily protection, we wanted to take a step further and consider how we can not only protect ourselves, but use this opportunity to celebrate our joint humanity. If we must wear masks, then let them be glorious! Let them celebrate our humanity and shared joys, rather than conceal them.’ §

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