Gucci has its fair share of controversies under its belt. Though the fashion house recently made steps toward becoming fur-free, they’ve also come under fire for cultural insensitivity, like the sale of blackface clothing and Sikh turbans earlier this year. Now, the company is facing criticism for showing designs that resembled straitjackets during the spring/summer 2020 show in Milan. If fact, during the show, one of the runway models silently protested the utilitarian styles.
While walking down the runway, model Ayesha Tan-Jones held up their hands to reveal a powerful message. “Mental health is not fashion,” Tan-Jones had written across both palms in bold, black ink. Though this moment came as a surprise to audience members, it sparked similar responses from mental health advocates on social media.
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Tan-Jones later explained their actions in an Instagram post. “I believe, as many fellow models do, that the stigma around mental health must end,” they wrote. “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.”
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Uniforms, utilitarian clothes, the normative dress dictated by society and those who control it—this idea is represented in the opening 60 beige and ivory looks of the #GucciSS20 fashion show by @alessandro_michele—captured in the fittings before the show. #mfw #AlessandroMichele
After the show, the company insisted that show’s intentions were not mock sensitive issues like mental health. Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele told The New York Times that the clothing was inspired by “the most extreme version of restriction as imposed by society.”
“For me, the show was the journey from conformity to freedom and creativity,” Michele said. Though the clothes were meant to make a point about self-expression, while serving as an antidote to the colorful designs in the collection, it’s easy to see why people found the stunt insensitive, offensive even.
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Hello ✨ I just want to say Thank You for all the support so many of you have given me since I lifted my hands in peaceful protest on the Gucci Runway show yesterday 💖 I feel very blessed to be surrounded by supportive comrades, and to know that there are so many people sharing support online for this action ✊🏽 I want to use this opportunity to remind people that this sort of bravery, is only a simple gesture compared to the bravery that people with mental health issues show everyday. To have the bravery to get out of bed, to greet the day, and to live their lives is an act of strength, and I want to thank you for being here and being YOU ! ☀️ The support people have shown to my act is more than I could imagine, so I only trust that we will share this same support to our friends, siblings, loved ones, acquaintances, internet friends or even strangers, who might be going through tough times with their Mental Health. Showing up for them may come in many forms, check in via text or DM, listen to them with patience and without judgement, offer a helping hand with household tasks like food shop, cooking or cleaning, regularly remind them how amazing and strong they are, but also that is okay feel the feels too, Lets show up for people with mental health and help end the stigma together !🌻 Many of the other Gucci models who were in the show felt just as strongly as I did about this depiction of straightjackets, and without their support I would not have had the courage to walk out and peacefully protest. Some have chosen to donate a portion their fee, and I 100% of mine, to mental health charities, who are doing amazing work for people today! Below are tags to some amazing charities that I encourage, if you have the resources and capacity to, please donate in any way you can, and in my linktree ( in bio ) is a google doc to websites for more charities ! <3 Also, please comment any other Mental Health organisations globally you would like to support and share, as my resources are UK/US based currently 💫 blessings, love & rage – Ayesha / YaYa 🌈 ✨ ✨ ✨ @mindcharity @mermaidsgender @qtpocmentalhealth @stonewalluk @switchboardlgbt @lgbtswitchboard @papyrus_uk
Still, Tan-Jones’s action have had a polarizing effect on fans. Some applaud them for their courage and calling attention to the thoughtless use of straitjacket styles. “Well done, I love Gucci but this is not fashion,” one user wrote under their Instagram post. Others, however, claim that a better choice would have been to not walk in the show at all.
“Maybe we shouldn’t censor other people’s artistic expressions because we don’t agree with them,” another user commented. “Maybe a better protest would’ve been not to walk? But no you had to get that sweet sweet fashion money didn’t you?”
But in another Instagram post on Monday, Tan-Jones added that they, along with some of the other models in the show, were donating a portion of the fees they were paid by Gucci to mental health charities. “Many of the other Gucci models who were in the show felt just as strongly as I did about this depiction of straitjackets, and without their support I would not have had the courage to walk out and peacefully protest,” they wrote.
However you choose to look at the designs, it’s clear that Gucci has a knack for causing controversy — and that the public is done putting up with it.
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