In his series of award-winning photographs documenting swimmers on the beach just outside the city Qingdao, China, photographer and movie producer Philipp Engelhorn captured an unusual (but sensible) trend for the fashionable young Chinese wear on the beach—a protective mask or facekini (脸基尼).
The facekini looks like the kind of beachwear Leigh Bowery might have designed. It is a full-head covering that protects the wearer from the damaging effects of the sun and from being stung by those giant jellyfish that lurk in the sea. The mask also stops other irritants like insects and wind-blown sand. The facekini is made of lycra or rubber and has holes for the wearer’s eyes, nose, and mouth.
German-born Engelhorn, who is the founder of independent movie company Cinereach, described the facekini as “sorta like Mexican wrestling” in the sense it’s reminiscent of those masks worn by lucha libre wrestlers. The Chinese take sun-protection very seriously and prefer not to tan when visiting the beach. These masks cost a couple of dollars though many young beach bums prefer to make their own headgear and matching bodysuit. As Engelhorn describes it:
Posing proudly in the early morning light, the swimmers at Qingdao Beach show off their protective gear. The outfits consist of bright hoods that cover their entire faces like balaclavas, while the rest of their bodies are also clad in colorful swim gear. From a full bodysuit of scarlet polka dots, à la Yayoi Kusama, to smart swim-dresses that wouldn’t look out of place at a dinner party, each swimmer displays a unique expression of their personality and fashion sense.
Zhang Shifan, a former accountant who owns a swimwear store in Qingdao, invented the “face-kini” in 2004. Since then, the facekini’s popularity with beachgoers has grown year-on-year even getting the seal of approval from glossy fashion mags and the Skin Cancer Foundation. You can buy your own funky facekini here and see more of Philipp Engelhorn’s work here.
More facekinis, after the jump…