FASHION CHIT CHAT

In Brooklyn, One Photographer Captures the City’s Most Creative Masks and Face Coverings

Vogue.com—-

When the CDC first made the recommendation that all Americans wear masks in public last month, New York was the first state to make those guidelines mandatory. Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, a photographer from Brownsville who now lives in Crown Heights, quickly saw the standard-issue surgical mask give way to a more creative idea of face-covering in her Brooklyn neighborhood. “Even though their faces are obscured, people are still presenting their identity,” says Barrayn. “They are representing their cultural, ethnic, and national background through their masks.”

Some, like one resident Barrayn captured in Crown Heights, are waving the flag for their heritage quite literally—in this case a Barbadian bandana affixed with the help of two rubber bands. “When carnival comes around in Brooklyn, people wear the flag handkerchiefs to represent where they’re from or where their family is from,” says Barrayn, referring to the annual West Indian Day parade. “You might see that in September, but I am seeing that now.”

With its rich culture of local tailoring, it only makes sense that Crown Heights would also be home to some of the most vibrant cloth mask designs. “People don’t have to go too far to get something stylish or custom-made,” says Barrayn.

In her search for eye-catching masks, the photographer hasn’t strayed too far from her local community. On a recent outing to neighboring Flatbush however, she spotted a particularly elaborate style by Brooklyn designer Chutney Warren made from faux crocodile and accented with diamanté and white floral appliqué. Further afield in Harlem, she has found that people are also supporting local designers. On her way uptown, she encountered Harlem resident Lavonne Williams in a show-stopping Gucci-inspired monogram mask designed by Mel Maxi, nephew of local fashion hero Dapper Dan. Even the simpler masks are being worn with personal flair. In Prospect Heights, Barrayn photographed a striking young woman in a bedazzled sky blue hijab to match her surgical mask.

Though masks have become a signifier of social distancing, a stark reminder of life amid the pandemic, Barrayn sees the stylish face coverings as a vehicle for self-expression, or even conversation starters. “In a way you’re still letting people know that you are open to communication,” she says. “What you see in these masks are expressions of existence, and that is powerful.”

pTanika Williams and her daughter Svaha Williams pose for a portrait in Flatbush Brooklyn. Their masks are made by...
Tanika Williams and her daughter Svaha Williams pose for a portrait in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Their masks are made by Harriets by Hekima’s longtime Brooklyn-based designer Hekima Hapa.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pStephanie wears a faux crocodileskin mask accented with faux diamonds and white flowers. This mask was designed by...
Stephanie wears a faux crocodile-skin mask accented with faux diamonds and white flowers. This mask was designed by local Brooklyn-based designer Chutney Warren, who applies various textiles, fabrics, and jewels over KN95 masks. This photograph was taken on Flatbush Avenue near Church Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pRuva K. wears a Marc Jacobs mask. She got this mask at a Marc Jacobs fashion event as a gift a few years ago. This...
Ruva K. wears a Marc Jacobs mask. She got this mask at a Marc Jacobs fashion event as a gift a few years ago. This photograph was taken on the corner of Nostrand and Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pLavonne Williams wears an original Gucci design by Dapper Dans nephew who goes by Mel Maxi. This photograph was taken...
Lavonne Williams wears an original “Gucci” design by Dapper Dan’s nephew, who goes by Mel Maxi. This photograph was taken on Lenox Avenue and 135th Street.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pTanaycious 20 is wearing a Louis Vuittoninspired design by Lasheaya Diaz a Brooklynbased fashion designer event planner...
Tanaycious, 20, is wearing a Louis Vuitton–inspired design by Lasheaya Diaz, a Brooklyn-based fashion designer, event planner, and founder of Haus of Shea. She is photographed here on Nostrand and Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pHannah wears their own tiedye mask.p
Hannah wears their own tie-dye mask.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pSheila made a DIY nosew mask from a bandana and elastic bands that has the design of the flag of the country where she...
Sheila made a DIY, no-sew mask from a bandana and elastic bands that has the design of the flag of the country where she was born, Barbados. She’s pictured here on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pShandell wears a mask made from a local designer. Shes photographed here on the border of BedStuy and Bushwick near...
Shandell wears a mask made from a local designer. She’s photographed here on the border of Bed-Stuy and Bushwick, near Broadway.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pLoug Delcy also known as Dapper Lou is an artist photographer and creative director. He wears a customdesigned mask...
Lougè Delcy, also known as Dapper Lou, is an artist, photographer, and creative director. He wears a custom-designed mask that was produced in conjunction with his production company Dapper Studios and Bru.Jer. These masks are part of a fundraiser with Amref Health Africa that will provide COVID-19 relief on the African continent. This photo was taken at the entrance of Prospect Park near Grand Army Plaza.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pShant wears a batikinspired fabric mask that she picked up from a street vendor. Shes pictured here on Fulton Street in...
Shanté wears a batik-inspired fabric mask that she picked up from a street vendor. She’s pictured here on Fulton Street in Fort Greene.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pMecca a photography major and skater who lives in BedStuy wears a Bordeaux Vintage Collections mask. Bordeaux Vintage...
Mecca, a photography major and skater who lives in Bed-Stuy, wears a Bordeaux Vintage Collections mask. Bordeaux Vintage Collections is a company run by a husband-and-wife team who are primarily quilters but also trade and sell rare and unique vintage items and memorabilia related to the Black American experience. Photographed at Von King Park in Bed-Stuy.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pJennifer wears a handmade crocheted mask to match her hairnet.p
Jennifer wears a handmade crocheted mask to match her hairnet.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pIn Fort Greene Ava wears a handmade mask sewn with the help of her mother Sandy.p
In Fort Greene, Ava wears a handmade mask, sewn with the help of her mother, Sandy.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pWendy of Fort Greene wears a mask from a local vendor.p
Wendy of Fort Greene wears a mask from a local vendor.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
pLandon 10 and Serge 6 wear masks made by their mother Sarah DjarnieBrown who is the owner and creator of ShopVolta. Her...
Landon, 10, and Serge, 6, wear masks made by their mother, Sarah Djarnie-Brown, who is the owner and creator of ShopVolta. Her first company, Guerilla Soul, was started in 2004, and she expanded and rebranded the company in 2018 after a trip to Ghana, where her family is from. She was inspired by the local artisans who use the traditional printed fabric known as ankara, which is what these masks are made from.Photographed by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
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