Face Masks: Sustainable Style & How to Make Your Own

With the announcement that face masks will be compulsory on public transport from 15 June, it looks like we’re all going to need some new additions to our wardrobe…

Lead image: UNDERCOVER Liberty print face mask from notonthehighstreet.com

For London to get back to any kind of ‘normal’, we’re going to need to get back on public transport. And while the thought of cramming onto a packed tube will fill many of us with horror, the news that everyone will have to wear a face mask offers at least some crumb of comfort.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, suggested that surgical masks should be reserved clinical settings, and instead, travellers could fashion a face covering out of a scarf or bandanna tied behind the head, or could make their own at home.


On 5 June, the World Health Organisation updated its guidance on face masks worn in public in areas with community transmission, stating that ‘fabric masks should consist of three layers of different material’ that fit closely over the nose, cheeks and chin. But urged us all to remember that ‘masks are not a replacement for physical distancing and hand washing’.

What material should face masks be? The ideal combination of those three layers, as outlined by WHO, is an innermost layer of a hydrophilic material (eg cotton or cotton blends), an outermost layer of hydrophobic material (eg polypropylene, polyester or their blends), and a middle hydrophobic layer of synthetic non-woven/spunbond material such as polyproplylene, or a cotton layer which may enhance filtration or retain droplets.

In addition, people aged 60 years or over, or those with underlying conditions, should wear a medical mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible.

So choose your face coverings wisely. And before you buy a bunch of disposable face masks in bulk, why not stock up on something a little more stylish and, more importantly, sustainable?

As Londoners, we all love a Liberty print, right? And there a number of independent designers creating masks from the famed fabrics.

‘Why not stock up on something a little more stylish and, more importantly, sustainable?’

London-based Love from Kate is selling a number of Liberty print masks for £15, with £2 from each going to the NHS. The masks come with either elastic that fits around the ears or ties that go around the back of the head, for something a little more comfortable.

Pearl Lowe whipped up a couple of double-lined masks for her daughters from scraps of old Liberty print dress fabric, and they went down a storm on Instagram. Now she’s teamed up with a Somerset seamstress to create them in all kinds of designs. They go for upwards of £25 and you can order them here.


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You can also get a Liberty print face mask from Undercover on notonthehighstreet.com, made from Liberty print Tana Lawn fabric, which has a particularly high density weave that’s butter soft to the touch (£12).

Etsy is a great place to search for face coverings, made by independent designer-makers in all sorts of styles. TylerCreativeStudio also creates Liberty print cotton face masks, complete with an insert for a filter, for £8.50.

You can also find a collection dedicated to mental health, where profits from sales go to the charity Mind. The masks by cost £7.25, and come in a number of patterns designed for men, women and kids.

For something a little more streamlined, check out Edeline Lee’s Spunbond Polypropylene Barrier Masks, a fluid resistant, breathable fabric that is used to make surgical masks and drapes. A pack of three is £40.

Likewise, Falke is keeping it simple with a two-pack of face masks, one in black, one white, priced £15. Falke’s face coverings are made of elastic, quick-drying material with a two-layer integrated fleece material.

North London boutique Plumo has gone for the linen look, crafting face masks from four layers of organic linen in a variety of colours and patterns, with designs for men, women and kids. You can also order a bundle of eight for £70. Plus, for every mask sold, Plümo is donating to Masks for NHS Heroes.


Alternatively, you could also make your own face mask following this DIY face mask tutorial from Love Crafts:



Love Crafts, the world’s leading community for makers, polled 2,200 members of the British public and discovered a third (31%) of Brits feel ‘uncomfortable’ not wearing a face mask when in public.

It is worth noting, however, that according to the World Health Organisation, wearing a face covering does not protect the wearer, but it may protect others from catching coronavirus, especially from those who are asymptomatic.

So wearing a face mask is essentially an altruistic measure. People living in crowded cities in Asian countries like Japan and China have been wearing masks in public for decades to prevent them from spreading cold and flu germs while out in public.

The best time to wear a mask is when you’re heading into a crowded space where social distancing is difficult, such as a bus, tube, train or a shop. But wearing them outdoors where there are no crowds offers little benefit, and they’re no good when exercising – a soggy mask, made damp by heavy breathing, is a useless mask.

It’s time we got on board with this altruistic trend, before boarding that bus. And don’t forget to wash your hands…