Gucci straitjackets attract silent protest from model on catwalk

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Ayesha Tan-Jones protested the drawings with a message.

JACOPO RAULE / GETTY IMAGES

Ayesha Tan-Jones protested the drawings with a message.

Everything was white: the walls the Gucci models glided over, the treadmill they stood on, the prison sandals they wore on their feet, and the straitjackets that covered their still bodies.

Before Gucci presented patterns, lace and bold colors at Milan Fashion Week, blank slate and bland clothing was meant to represent “the most extreme version of a uniform dictated by society and those who control it, “according to Gucci.

Designer Alessandro Michele created the “virgin style clothes to represent how, through fashion, power is exerted on life, to eliminate self-expression,” Gucci wrote on Instagram. “This power prescribes social norms, classifying and limiting identity.”

At the opening of the Gucci show in Milan on Sunday afternoon, the brand’s 20 models, gloomy and staring straight ahead, passed onlookers with limp arms at their sides – all but one.

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Ayesha Tan-Jones – who identifies as non-binary and uses them and them pronouns – raised her arms.

“MENTAL HEALTH” read their palms in black marker, “ISN’T FASHION.”

Tan-Jones did not immediately respond to a request for an interview, but they said in a series of statements posted to Instagram after the fashion show that they decided to protest because “I believe, like a lot of my fellow models, that the stigma around health care must end. “

Gucci said the specific clothing was just a statement for the show and would not be sold.

JACOPO RAULE / GETTY IMAGES

Gucci said the specific clothing was just a statement for the show and would not be sold.

As someone struggling with mental health issues and as someone whose loved ones have suffered from bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and schizophrenia, Tan-Jones wrote that he is hurtful and callous for one. large fashion house such as Gucci to use this imagery as a concept for a fleeting fashion moment. “

Tan-Jones continued, “Straight jackets are a symbol of a cruel time in medicine when mental illness was not understood and people’s rights and freedoms were taken away from them as they were abused and tortured in the hospital. ‘institution.

“It is in bad taste for Gucci to use the imagery of straight jackets and outfits alluding to the mentally ill, while being unrolled on a conveyor belt as if it were a piece of meat from factory.

“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.

Models wear coveralls designed to mimic straitjackets.

VICTOR BOYKO / GETTY IMAGES

Models wear coveralls designed to mimic straitjackets.

Tan-Jones continued this thinking in a separate statement.

“A lot of other Gucci models who were on the show were just as convinced as I was about this straitjacket portrayal, and without their support I wouldn’t have had the courage to come out and protest peacefully,” said Tan-Jones, adding that they joined with other models in donating part of the payment for their show to mental health charities.

Gucci representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in their statement on Instagram after the show, they made it clear that the white outfits that started the show will not be sold and have only been included. within the framework of performative art.

These outfits, including the straitjackets, were meant to juxtapose Michele’s colorful spring / summer collection, according to the story, which he designed to convey “fashion as a way for people to explore fields of possibility. , to cultivate beauty, to make diversity sacrosanct and to celebrate the self in expression and identity. “

Michele said The New York Times after the show he “wanted to show how today’s society can have the capacity to contain individuality and that Gucci can be the antidote”.

“For me, the show was the journey from conformity to freedom and creativity,” Michele told The Times.

Michele, an Italian designer who became Gucci’s creative director in 2015, has been criticized in the past for other ‘fashion’ moments that have been called insensitive.

In February, Gucci apologized and pulled a hooded wool sweater that was selling for $ 890 from its shelves after online critics accused the turtleneck of imitating blackface. The brand also faced backlash for putting white models in turbans as if they were Sikh religious headgear and then selling them in stores for hundreds of dollars.

After the uproar, Gucci formed an advisory board and planned to hire a global director for diversity and inclusion.


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