A Gucci model staged an unplanned protest during the label’s Spring/Summer 2020 show at Milan Fashion Week after the brand dressed models in straight jackets — a move the model called “offensive” to people with mental health issues.
Model Ayesha Tan-Jones walked in Gucci’s show during Milan Fashion Week. The show opened with a series of models in “blank-styled” clothing, some of which were straight jackets. As the other models entered on a moving conveyor belt, hands at their sides, Tan-Jones raised their hands to reveal the words “mental health is not fashion” handwritten in black ink. They explained the unplanned protest on Instagram.
“Straight jackets are a symbol of a cruel time in medicine when mental illness was not understood, and people’s rights and liberties were taken away from them, while they were abused and tortured in the institution,” Tan-Jones wrote, adding:
As an artist and model who has experienced my own struggles with mental health, as well as family members and loved ones who have been affected by depression, anxiety, bipolar and schizophrenia, it is hurtful and insensitive for a major fashion house such as Gucci to use this imagery as a concept for a fleeting fashion moment. … Presenting these struggles as props for selling clothes in today’s capitalist climate is vulgar, unimaginative and offensive to the millions of people around the world affected by these issues.
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Tan-Jones, also an advocate for the LGBTQ community, highlighted in their comments that mental illness disproportionately impacts the LGBTQ community and people of color. According to the Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 39% of LGBTQ young people between the ages of 13 and 24 considered suicide in the last year, and more than 50% of transgender youth. Mental Health America found Black people are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress compared to white people.
Gucci wrote on Instagram the purpose of the straight jacket and other blank-styled designs was “to represent how through fashion, power is exercised over life, to eliminate self-expression.” The fashion house added the straight jacket designs were only designed for the show and will not be for sale.
“Uniforms, utilitarian clothes, normative dress, including straitjackets, were included in the #GucciSS20 fashion show as the most extreme version of a uniform dictated by society and those who control it. These clothes were a statement for the fashion show and will not be sold,” Gucci posted, adding:
The Creative Director’s antidote is seen in the Gucci Spring Summer 2020 lineup of 89 looks, he has designed a collection that conveys fashion as a way to allow people to walk through fields of possibilities, cultivate beauty, make diversity sacrosanct and celebrate the self in expression and identity.
Gucci isn’t the first high-profile fashion brand to come under fire from a model for a mental health-related design. In February, model Liz Kennedy called out Burberry for a hoodie design debuted during London Fashion Week that included a closure fashioned like a noose. She likened it to suicide imagery, while others called out its racial association with lynching. Burberry apologized and pulled the hoodie from the collection.
The Mighty reached out to Ayesha Tan-Jones and Gucci for comment and has yet to hear back.