Australian soprano Claire Lyon knows all about wearing masks. Currently based in Seoul where she is playing Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera – one of the few live productions that has continued to run during the COVID-19 pandemic – she has been wearing a mask since the start of this year.

Claire Lyon with one of the masks available through The Masque Co.

Now, as mask-wearing becomes mandatory in Victoria and is recommended in New South Wales, Lyon has launched a business called The Masque Co. which is manufacturing bright, fun, eco-friendly masks. What’s more, $1 from every mask sold is donated to the Arts Wellbeing Collective, an Arts Centre Melbourne initiative that offers mental health support to workers in the performing arts industry.

The Phantom of the Opera has remained on the boards in Seoul because of the Korean’s government’s quick response to the coronavirus and the various containment, tracing and tracking methods it has put in place. Mask wearing is an essential part of that, so masks are worn everywhere, including in the theatre.

After finding that a mask was a part of her daily wardrobe, Lyon decided to start creating face coverings that are safe, but more eco and face-friendly.

“I found wearing one-time-use surgical masks a little depressing and so many I had tried were either too uncomfortable, too suffocating, not eco-friendly or just plain boring. I thought to myself ‘How can I make this more fun and less scary, while also protecting people and in turn, helping get our economy and the performing arts industry back up on its feet? I was the lucky one who still had a job. I had to do something to help,” said Lyon.

Claire Lyon wearing one of the masks available from The Masque Co.

Talking to friends and family, she established The Masque Co. which manufactures a range of colorful masks that are designed in Melbourne and manufactured in Seoul.

“It was like the idea was in my face the whole time! Our audience members were all in masks, even the Phantom was in a mask! When I saw the coronavirus numbers still surging, especially in my hometown of Melbourne, I had to get cracking! The fact that mask wearing became mandatory was a complete coincidence,” said Lyon.

She was determined that the masks should not only look good, but should protect both the wearer and the people around them. Made from high quality stretch fabric, they are ultra-soft, washable, non-toxic and PH balanced. Tried and tested by the Korean Apparel Testing & Research Institute, which has some of the strictest guidelines in the world, they have an antibacterial activity of 99.9 percent, as well as a particle penetration efficiency around 20 percent higher than many cotton masks.

Lyon grew up in Melbourne and began her professional career with Opera Australia, where she played roles including Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro and Ida in Die Fledermaus. She also toured nationally in the OA production of My Fair Lady. Her other roles include Hope Harcourt in Anything Goes for the Gordon Frost Organisation and Josephine in HMS Pinafore for Melbourne Opera.

She hopes that her masks will help brighten people’s lives, and that the donation to the Arts Wellbeing Collective will help support Australian arts workers who are struggling with the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Todd McKenney wearing one of the masks available through TODDMASKS.COM

Meanwhile, Todd McKenney’s mask-making company TODDMASKS.COM – a ‘pivot for profit’ platform that sells masks created by Australian costume designers – has been going gangbusters. Launched in late July, it has already sold 3,000 masks to the value of over $60,000. In fact, such is the demand that the site has now added volunteers from the Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation who are making masks, proceeds from which will go directly to the Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation, which is a charity.

There are also online auctions of one-of-a-kind masks at TODDMASKS.COM to support the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

Masks from The Masque Co. can be purchased here

Masks from TODDMASKS.COM can be purchased here