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From necessity to luxury: The evolution of face coverings during COVID-19 

Digital Artefacts 

Off-White StockX receipt

StockX receipt, February 2021


Since the UK's first nationwide lockdown in March 2020, activities that would typically occur within physical public spaces such as working, shopping, and socialising now frequently occur within digital virtual spaces.

The processes of researching, collecting, and displaying the artefacts in this exhibition occurred almost entirely within these digital spaces. Only three of the 52 face covers on display were purchased in a physical store; the rest were obtained via Instagram, eBay, online e-retailers, digital publications, and Etsy.

With the rise of the internet in the late 1990s, coinciding with production and consumption becoming more globalised, brands fragmented into creating multi-seasonal micro-offerings via the limited-edition drop. As we increasingly live our lives virtually through digital consumption and communication, the drop's success is due in part to the hyperconnected online communities that have developed around specific brands and the ability for consumers to buy instantly across the globe.

Since the inception of eBay in 1997, the development of online trading systems has been based on incorporating trust into the transactional process. Initially, this was based on buyer feedback, but as time went on, there was a greater reliance on algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure the authenticity of both products and transactions. The growing use of digital authentication processes such as barcodes, QR codes, SKUs (stock-keeping units), and proprietary processes such as Certilogo has also aided the growth of sites like StockX.

Founded in 2015, StockX serves primarily as an auction site for designer menswear, trainers, and accessories. However, goods successfully sold on their site are sent to them for verification before being forwarded to the winning bidder. In addition, the site includes a variable pricing framework, similar to a stock market, that allows consumers to see historical data tracking price fluctuations for specific items within their system.


Off-White labelling
Off-White product labels
Off-White RFID label
StockX authentic product tag
Off-White QR label
Off-White Certilogo label
StockX card
July 2020

The packaging for the Off-White mask in the exhibition employs various digital methods to ensure the object's authenticity and track it. These include barcodes, QR codes, Certilogo, and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tagging. However, the ability to track goods after they have been purchased raises privacy and security concerns.

Archive no. 2020.100.44
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