It’s easy to neglect what goes on halfway around the world. I know I don’t devote a part of my day every day to thinking about other problems going on in other countries. It’s easy to take our ability to walk around outside and inhale fresh, clean air for granted, but just a 13 hour plane ride away, the residents of Beijing, China have to wear face masks just to be able to go outside and breathe. Can you imagine looking out your window on a normal day to see gusts of foggy pollution instead of fresh air?
It may seem like a far-fetched scenario that you personally don’t have to think about, but this a scary reality for 21,700,00 people in the world. Although having to wear a face mask doesn’t seem ideal, due to the pollution, it has unfortunately become an everyday clothing item for the residents of Beijing. As China has gotten used to having to wear face masks, they have even learned to embrace it. From matching their masks with their outfits, to studding them with swarovski crystals, high fashion designers have taken simple face masks to the next level. One designer in particular, Wang Zhijun, has turned his designs into a statement about the impact of pollution by using high-end sneakers as masks. Wang grew up in Beijing and was an avid runner. After not being able to run around his neighborhood anymore due to the pollution hurting his lungs, he started researching pollution. He was instantly intrigued and inspired to make a difference and bring the pollution problem to the people’s attention.
His goal is to show the world that you can use everyday items to bring change into your life. Through his innovative mindset and love of running, Wang came up with the idea to use designer sneakers to make face masks. One of his most recent pieces is a pair of Kanye West’s’ Yeezys. The design was instantly a hit after he uploaded it to Amazon, and drew a bid for over $5,000. Ebay did not allow the transaction because of price limit rules on first-time sellers, but even without the sale of the sneakers, Wang was very satisfied with the outcome. Since the success of his first pair, Wang has made many more, each taking him about five days to complete. Other big name companies like Puma and Swatch are on board with the idea and have featured him on their global campaigns and ads. Even though the attention from big label companies is exciting for Wang, that is not his end goal. Ultimately, Wang wants to keep the focus on the pollution problem and find ways to bring awareness to it and help.