UPDATE (3/28/2020): As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads the queer fashion brand Marek + Richard have released a new collection that includes eight face masks, among other pieces. These masks, which sport labels like "Cumwhore," "Daddy," "Mask 4 Mask," and "Plastic," helped to usher in a site wide quarantine-themed sale for the company. Some on social media have accused the brand of using a fatal pandemic as a marketing opportunity for profit.
"I think it’s difficult to characterize any small business as profiting at the moment and most of us are struggling to barely break even, but we understand the severity of the situation and have family and friends who are currently sick," Robbie Richard, CEO and President of Marek + Richard Apparel group wrote to Out in an email. "As a brand we try to filter things through a campy and sometimes comedic lens to hopefully brighten somebody’s day or distract them from the chaos surrounding us at the moment. We try not to take ourselves too seriously. But in these uncertain times we as a small queer business are doing everything we can to keep our employees paid and are incredibly grateful for the continued support from the community."
According to Richard "the masks are selling fairly well and are helping to somewhat offset the largest decrease in sales we’ve ever experienced." This decrease is no doubt due to the fact that many of the company's pieces are bought for circuit parties, music festivals, and other major events, all of which are mostly cancelled for the foreseeable future. When asked whether they would be donating anything towards the fight against COVID-19, which is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Richard said they are.
"We haven’t done the best at publicizing it, but we are currently donating masks to places that will accept them in the Dallas/Ft Worth area," Richard wrote. "Without the prints of course!"
Out will be printing the company's full statement in the days to come.
ORIGINAL (3/27/2020): The world is reeling from the pandemic caused by the spread of COVID-19. We are still going through it in fact, and only seem to really be at the beginning of it all. COVID-19, which is caused by the novel coronavirus, has caused the closing of national borders, the shuttering of hundreds of businesses, and the quarantining of thousands of people. Today, the United States of America became the leader in known cases with more than 82,000 according to CNN and at least 1,195 deaths. But for the queer fashion brand Marek + Richard, known mostly as the garb of circuit party goers as well as friends of some of drag's finest like Alyssa Edwards — they got married on her Netflix show Dancing Queen,— this was all just a marketing opportunity.
According to their Instagram the label, which is run by the married couple Neil Marek and Robbie Richard, began shooting "content for [their] quarantine sale" five days ago. "#MaskComingSoon" a caption read. In the image, a model appears in sweatpants, an embellished necklace, a spiked choker, snapback, and a neoprene mask with the word "CUNT" printed on it. In the days since, the company has posted more images of models wearing similar masks with different words: Daddy, Mask 4 Mask, Plastic, and "corOh No she betta don't!" all make appearances.
Yes, the coupletook something that people are buying in droves now as a hygenic necessity to stop the spread of a fatal global pandemic, and turned it into an accessory for profit.
On the company's website they are selling eight masks — including the ones featured on Instagram as well as others. The product description says that the accessories are "breathable neoprene fabric topped with vinyl print on the front."
"This mask is NOT intended to treat or cure any diseases," they wrote. "The mask is not a medical-grade mask." They are being sold for $16.50. At the time of this writing, the Mask 4 Mask option had sold out.
Listen, I get it: everyone is anticipating for every aspect of every industry to take a hard hit beginning now and lasting well into the next few months, even possibly a full year. Small independent queer companies will no doubt face the brunt of the lost business and receive comparatively little support from the government, or may not even last until that support finally comes. But this is incredibly not the way to survive.
More than a few people pointed out how bad the decision was on social media. "How much of the proceeds are going to the healthcare workers that are literally saving lives" one follower on Instagram asked. "People are dying and y'all are only concerned about staying trendy? Gross," another wrote. It is worth noting that there were many also expressing excitement at the prospect.
At this moment face masks are the difference between literal life and death. Medical centers are running out of them leaving doctors and nurses treating those who have developed COVID-19 vulnerable to infection. Others are wearing them for those moments where they have to go out of quarantine for food or whatever else they may do. To turn this into some kitschy fashion item and slap "cumwhore" on the front, all to make a buck without actively helping those who need this the most is honestly reprehensible. To then use green emojis on your site, come up with the promo code 6FEET which nods to social distancing guidelines, and put it all on sale shows that this is nothing more than a joke to you.
Then again, what did we expect? This is the same company who made that "No Fats, No Fems" tank top.
Out has reached out to Marek + Richard about the specifics of this collection and the decision behind selling it in this social environment. We will update if we hear back.