Gucci model stages unplanned mental health protest against brand’s use of straitjackets

'Presenting these struggles as props for selling clothes in today’s capitalist climate is vulgar, unimaginative and offensive'

Olivia Petter
Monday 23 September 2019 09:54
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Gucci model stages mental health protest at Milan Fashion Week

Gucci is no stranger to controversy, but it’s rare to see a brand’s shortfalls called out on the runway, least of all by a model who is wearing its clothes.

But on Sunday, one model did just that in protest to Gucci’s use of straitjackets in its spring/summer 2020 collection as debuted at Milan Fashion Week.

Models glided down the brand’s conveyor belt runway wearing reworked versions of the garments historically used in psychiatric hospitals, but Ayesha Tan Jones appeared holding up her hands, on which the words “mental health is not fashion” were written.

Jones, who identifies as non-binary, later uploaded a video from the show on Instagram and explained that as someone who has previously suffered with mental health issues, they found Gucci’s designs deeply offensive.

“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,” they wrote.

“It is in bad taste for Gucci to use the imagery of straitjackets and outfits alluding to mental patients, while being rolled out on a conveyor belt as if a piece of factory meat.”

Jones accused the luxury label of presenting mental health issues as “props for selling clothes in today’s capitalist climate” before describing the designs as “vulgar, unimaginative and offensive".

While many of Jones’ followers concurred that Gucci’s creations were in poor taste, actor and model Hari Nef defended the concept, commenting: “It was more a provocative reminder of submission than a glamorisation of insanity.”

The brand issued a statement in response to Jones on Instagram on Sunday evening describing the straitjackets included in the show as a symbol of "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," it continued, explaining that creative director Alessandro Michele designed the clothes "to represent how through fashion, power is exercised over life, to eliminate self-expression".

A Gucci spokesperson confirmed to The Independent that the brand was not aware of Jones' intentions to protest during the show and added that the white outfits were a "statement" and "part of a performance".

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