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This Model Staged A Protest On Gucci’s Runway While Walking For Them. We Think It’s Incredibly Brave

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Have you ever spoken up against your bosses at work? And have you ever been the only one fighting alone, taking up the cause? If yes, the story of model Ayesha Tan Jones will resonate with you on so many levels.

Luxury fashion label Gucci presented their Spring Summer ’20 collection at Milan Fashion Week on Sunday. The collection featured their signature style of structurally cool garments. But as an add-on, the label decided to present a show of models gliding down a conveyor belt in designs fashioned after clothes seen on patients wearing at psychiatric hospitals.

Of the many “statement-making” garbs the label presented, most were designed like straitjackets. For context, these jackets are put on psychiatric patients in hospitals in order to restrain them. I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that it’s very insensitive to use it for a fashion show, no matter what your intention is.

Ayesha Tan-Jones, a model who walked for the show, identifies as non-binary, said “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.” And we agree. We don’t know what the people at Gucci are snorting, but in a world that’s increasingly comfortable talking about mental health, this was stupid.

“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,” she added.

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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. @alessandro_michele designed these blank-styled clothes to represent how through fashion, power is exercised over life, to eliminate self-expression. This power prescribes social norms, classifying and curbing identity. 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. #AlessandroMichele

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It wasn’t just Ayesha who dared to speak up against the rude and unnecessary show from the label. Fashion watchdog Diet Prada commented, “Conflicted after the Gucci show which opened with 60 models in a varying uniform inspired pieces, around half of which were straitjackets. One model wrote “mental health is not fashion” on their palms in protest. It was meant to be a statement about breaking free from the constraints placed upon us by society, but we have a hard time filing straight jackets under uniform wear, as they’re generally not worn voluntarily”.

Runway protests are a rare sight since models never step out of line and accuse the label they are walking for as inappropriate. But given how personal mental health issues are to them, we are glad Ayesha did it. It takes balls of steel to speak up against your employer, Ayesha is inspiring.

There is a time and place to discuss sensitive issues in our society. And the runway of a luxurious fashion week can be it, if done with some research and respect.

Gucci is not new to controversy. We wonder how much lack of diversity is required to make such obvious mistakes on the part of a label. Back in February, the label was called out for their ‘blackface’ sweater, which they apologised for later. But wasn’t their anyone in the their team who went “Erm…that’s a bad idea”? Either there isn’t or they are not heard. In either case, the label has been courting these controversies a lot. Maybe it’s time for a much needed internal audit, Gucci?

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