Ayesha Tan-Jones held up their hands to reveal the words “mental health is not fashion” in protest to the straitjackets that appeared on the Gucci catwalk in Milan.
Model Ayesha Tan-Jones staged a protest at Gucci’s spring/summer 2020 show in Milan on Sunday (September 22). The British model held up their hands to reveal the words “mental health is not fashion”, as they made their way down the conveyor belt that doubled up as the catwalk.
The protest related to the opening sequence of the Italian mega-brand’s show, which featured a series of high-fashion takes on the straitjacket. The Kering-owned brand said the outfits were designed to represent “the most extreme version of restriction imposed by society and those who control it.”
Explaining the decision to take a stand, Tan-Jones said in an Instagram post: “I chose to protest the Gucci SS20 runway show as I believe, as many of my fellow models do, that the stigma around mental health must end. 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, is hurtful and insensitive for a major fashion house such as Gucci to use this imagery as a concept for a fleeting fashion moment.”
Tan-Jones continued: “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. 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.”
The model told Vogue that they, and others on the Gucci spring/summer 2020 runway, have chosen to donate a portion of pay from the show to various mental health charities.
Actress Hari Nef, who sat front row at the Gucci show, defended the concept, writing on Instagram: “The clinical whites that opened the show were upsetting – willfully: more a provocative reminder of submission than a glamorisation of insanity.”
Gucci has confirmed the “utilitarian uniforms” were “a statement for the fashion show and will not be sold in shops.” A spokesperson later added: “The show presented how society today can have the ability to confine individuality and how Gucci can be the antidote… It was a journey from conformity to freedom and creativity. The white outfits were a statement for the fashion show and part of a performance, in the sense of setting the context for what followed.”
It is not the first time Gucci has faced controversy; the brand apologised for a sweater that resembled blackface in February and was criticised for putting white models in turbans during its autumn/winter ’18/’19 show. Burberry also faced backlash earlier this year for a hoodie that featured ties that resembled a noose during its autumn/winter ’19/’20 show; later apologising for insensitivity.