Fashion Designers Turn Their Eyes to the 'Facekini'

 / Updated 
Face Mask Bathing Suits, popular on Qingdao's Beach, Shandong Province, China, on June 4
Face Mask Bathing Suits, popular on Qingdao's Beach, Shandong Province, China, on June 4. In recent years, Qingdao swimmers have made waves on Chinese Internet sites for their bizarre swimming "Facekini"gear: colorful, full-face masks.Sipa Asia/REX / Rex Features via AP, file

For years the ‘Facekini’ has been associated with the middle-aged Chinese women who donned the masks to protect their complexions from the effects of the sun.

The masks, which have long been a source of bemused press coverage by the Western media, resemble ski masks and almost cover the wearer’s entire face, leaving only the eyes, mouth and tip of the nose exposed. They are especially popular in the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao.

A new photo spread in the New York City-based fashion trade magazine CR Fashion Book is bringing the mysterious masks some attention this week from the heart of the Western fashion world. The set of 8 photos features models wearing brightly patterned facekinis paired with swimsuits by big name designers like Gucci, Alexander Wang, Emporio Armani, and Michael Kors.

“While our summer beauty routines are devoted to bronzing, self-tanning, and tan-extending, in Asia, beauty-seekers are more likely to center theirs around lightening and brightening,” reads article accompanying the photos. “A tan does not signify a chic trip to Capri, but it could mean hours of hard labor spent out in the harsh sun.”

Since its publication earlier this week, the photo shoot has provoked an intense discussion of the new trendiness of the facekini on the Chinese social media site Weibo.

“Chinese old women are at the center of the global fashion world," one user wrote.

"It looks like bank robbers are raiding the beach," said another.