Updated November 14, 2020 - 6:56 pm
A Las Vegas fashion designer’s face mask design won first place in FashioNXT’s National Fashion Face Mask Design Competition in Portland, Oregon.
Anna Bartoletti said her winning mask design, titled “Words of 2020,” is a commentary on the state of the world. Words including “Black Lives Matter,” “Protests,” “Death,” “Pandemic,” “COVID-19” and “Politics” are hand-embroidered in black. In color, she embroidered a cross, a daisy and a heart to signify that “there’s hope despite the darkness we’re living through.”
Bartoletti included “Biden” on the left of the mask and “Trump” on the right, as well as “Jumanji” and “Bingo Board,” words commonly used this year in reference to the unpredictability of 2020. Her winning design was one of three designs she submitted to FashioNXT.
The mask drew praise from the judges for its bold, thought-provoking design.
“Every word or phrase on the mask is a point of departure for discussion, with a realization that things are not normal in 2020, and an acknowledgment that we may never return to the way things were,” one judge, Ken Boddie, said in an email.
Bartoletti said a deep interest in the Spanish flu of 1918 inspired her designs. “I was fascinated by what they went through,” she said. “I could identify with how these people felt and that was 100 years ago. I felt connected to them in a way.”
In 1997, the New York City native graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked in the fashion industry in New York City for several years. She has worked as a costume designer for the film industry in Los Angeles and the theater industry in Pittsburgh. Bartoletti said she has worked as an apprentice alongside famous designer Betsey Johnson.
She moved to Las Vegas in 2009 and is an independent, full-time designer. She creates custom-designed dance costumes for several studios and clients.
In May, as she was quarantining, Bartoletti found old letters online from 1918 during the Spanish flu pandemic. As she read them, she was struck by the many similarities between people who lived through the Spanish flu and what people are currently facing.
One letter she found, written by 16-year-old Annie Clifton on Oct. 21, 1918, reads, “Brother, Norfolk is some dull now. All of the moving pictures and theatres are closed on account of the Spanish flu. … I’m not working now (and) school … had to close, too.”
The first mask she designed, one of the three masks that she submitted to FashioNXT, is titled “Full Circle,” which includes images of vintage posters, news articles and photos of people wearing their masks during the 1918 pandemic and a photo from the Anti-Mask League.
The mask is long and pointy and includes a hand-embroidered line and arrows that connect the years 1918 to 2020, as Bartoletti believes we’ve come full circle. She said her intention was to create something avant-garde and abstract.
The second mask she designed, “Wear a Mask or Go to Jail,” is white and imitates an actual flat sign. She was inspired by an old photo she found from the 1918 pandemic. In the old photo, a woman has a sign pinned to her coat with the words, “Wear a Mask or Go to Jail.”
“People back then were getting arrested for not wearing a mask,” said Bartoletti. “It makes you wonder, will we ever get to that point? Are we already there?”
Bartoletti said she wants her mask design to serve as a capsule of a memorable time in history. Her hope is that it would be preserved for future generations in the same way those who lived through the 1918 pandemic left letters for the generations that followed.
“I hope that by looking at my mask people get a sense of hope for the future. Hope that we’ll get through all of this,” she said. “It seems really dark right now, but people have made it through in the past. Beautiful things can come from really dark times.”
Bartoletti said she has her hands full as she is working on a mini collection of her recycled fashion line set to release in December. She also plans on releasing a 1918 pandemic-inspired line in early 2021. More information on Bartoletti and her designs are available on her website.