A few days ago I spent the afternoon in the Ximen area of Taipei. Ximen is a teen-oriented neighbourhood which is also called the “Harajuku of Taipei” [Harajuku is a Tokyo area famous for its teen/street fashion style]. The streets in Ximen are full of food stalls, restaurants and cosmetics retailers (including Korean chains Nature Republic, Etude House, Skin Food, Tony Moly and Face Shop, Sasa from Hong Kong and Western favourites L’Occitane and The Body Shop). There are game arcades, cinemas and fashion/accessories stores – Ximen is very loud, very colourful and very VERY crowded. On the weekends this is where large numbers of Taipei’s youngsters hang out.
I was walking aimlessly around the Ximen streets when all of a sudden I came upon MasKingdom – a store which specializes in face masks. Now, this in itself is nothing special: face masks (the foldable kind) are an integral part of the Taiwanese beauty market and the country is famous for its face masks manufacturers (the best-known brands include Sexy Look, My Beauty Diary and LoveMore). In Taiwan, face masks are a staple in every drugstore and every perfumery chain. However, MasKingdom has a different – and very cool – brand concept.
MasKingdom’s Ximen store (it is also the company’s flagship store) opened in October 2013. As I mentioned in the introduction, the company manufactures face masks and its line-up currently comprises 10 different ranges. So far, so good. However, what makes MasKingdom different is that its products focus on Taiwanese creativity and design and on the country’s unique cultural heritage.
The packaging of the masks is created by different Taiwanese designers and each range has a distinctive visual identity. The I Wish range, for example, was designed by illustrator Stanley Dai. I Wish includes 12 different masks which express various wishes – there is a “Road Safety” mask which is scented with sandalwood and citrus or a “LOHAS” (!) mask (third pic below) formulated with bergamot and cherry. The “Merry Apart” mask with oat extract, vitamin A and vitamin C is claimed to ease heartache after a relationship break-up and the “Happy Birthday” mask will help to alleviate the signs of ageing with a jasmine fragrance and moisturizing caviar extract! There is also a range of masks decorated with drawings of classic Chinese female beauties. Each mask in this line focuses on one main ingredient: collagen, for example, hyaluronic acid or ginkgo extract. Another line features Art Deco-inspired stylized women reminiscent of 1920s fashion whilst other ranges offer TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) inspired ingredients or flower-decorated packaging/floral ingredients.
However, my favourite – and the most unique mask range – is the Beauty Factor line which features traditional ingredients and decorative patterns used by Taiwan’s different Aboriginal tribes. The packaging of this range (middle pic above) was designed by someone called Ele and it is very striking indeed. Again, there are 12 masks with different and equally beautiful illustrations. Several of the mask ranges, including I Wish and Beauty Factor, are combination products – the pack contains a face mask and a separate cream sachet that can be used afterwards. Every mask can be purchased individually (the retail price is 180 TWD, a little less than 5 Euro) or as a gift set of 12. What I also liked is the fact that they have tiny sample masks from each of the ranges! These miniature masks have a diameter of approximately 6-7cm and are small versions of the retail products – they look very realistic, with tiny cut-outs for eyes, nose and mouth. This marvellous attention to detail is also reflected in the interior design of MasKingdom’s Ximen store. Each mask range is presented individually in a separate shelf area. There is a touch-screen where visitors can send “well-wishes” e-mails to their friends – and there is also a second story (which wasn’t open yet when I visited the store) which will display even more face masks.
In fact, eventually MasKingdom wants to sell 360 (!) different face masks so there is a lot of scope for adding new themes, decorative subjects or limited editions as well as presenting up-and-coming Taiwanese designers. The strong focus on their Taiwanese heritage also makes these masks good souvenirs – another innovative angle and probably the reason why the company has also opened a small store in Taipei’s Main Train Station. I think MasKingdom’s brand concept is unusual and very convincing. It’s no surprise that the company behind the brand, TenArt Biotech, received a Business Start-Up Award from the Taiwanese government in 2012. If you’re visiting Taipei and are in the Ximen area, check out the MasKingdom store. The fabulous Red House cultural and creative centre is also in the neighbourhood – another great place to visit, by the way.