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Courtesy of Airinum

Statues in Paris are wearing masks to protest air pollution levels

From Marine Serre’s Paris Fashion Week runway to Place de la République

Statues across the city of Paris have had their faces covered by masks, in a bid to protest the dangerous levels of air pollution in different parts of the world. Swedish brand Airinum’s air pollution masks appeared on Paris Fashion Week’s runways just this week.

In support of the UN Climate Action Summit that took place on Monday in New York, the health tech company – whose accessories featured in French designer Marine Serre’s runway show yesterday (September 24) – have orchestrated the city-wide visual protest.

“We are bringing our air masks into the fashion industry to hopefully spark a debate about how the climate crisis will change everything, even the way we dress. Attending Fashion Week, knowing all eyes would be on Paris, we also wanted to make a difference on a larger scale by raising awareness about the problems outside the catwalk,” said Fredrik Kempe, co-founder of Airinum.

Air pollution kills seven million people every year, and new studies show that people living in more polluted areas are at higher risk of developing psychiatric disorders. “UN Secretary-General António Guterreshas emphasised the link between worsening levels of air pollution and the climate crisis, but still not enough is being done,” explains Kempe. “The simple act of breathing is killing seven million people a year and is harming billions more which is unacceptable, and that is what made us start this company in the first place. A mask can both save lives and at the same time be a symbol for the climate crisis.”

While climate change is at the centre of global conversation, with millions of young people attending climate strikes across 150 countries last week, air pollution is not yet seen as a household anxiety for many. But there is a new generation of activists, attempting to rework air pollution’s public image by raising awareness of its harmful effects.