May 21, 2020 11:07 am

Artists in Lithuania invited residents of the capital Vilnius to a “Mask Fashion Week” on Tuesday, encouraging them to have fun wearing the now-mandatory facial accessory.

Spearheading the initiative, designer Julia Janus said she hoped it would “encourage creativity” as well as compliance with orders to wear masks in public to help stem coronavirus infections.

“This is the first Mask Fashion Week in the world,” Janus told reporters after a symbolic ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch the event.

“I hope that it will also be the last, but who knows.”

More than 20 billboards dotted around the city feature posters of artists wearing their own uniquely styled masks. Each is captioned “Creativity Cannot be Masked”.

Painted with pursed red lips or toothy grins, some masks are intended to draw laughs while others aim to impress with elegant embroidery, pearls and lace or tailored finishes that match a business suit.

Featuring pointy black beaks, others are modelled on masks worn by doctors during the Black Death that ravaged Europe in the mid-1300s.

Lithuania has begun a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, reopening open-air cafes and restaurants along with shops and libraries as infections slow.

Vilnius mayor Remigijus Simasius has offered cafes free use of public spaces, saying he wants the capital to become “one giant outdoor cafe”.

Although cinemas remain closed, hundreds of movie fans are flocking to Lithuania’s main international airport to a drive-in cinema created in the shadow of planes grounded by the coronavirus pandemic.

The health ministry confirmed 1,423 cases of the novel coronavirus, including 48 deaths as of Tuesday in Lithuania, a nation of 2.8 million people.

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This post was written by Nadia Vella