‘Mental Health Is Not Fashion’ – Peaceful Protest By Gucci Model
Putting the spotlight on Ayesha Tan-Jones, the model that called out Gucci’s use of straightjackets
Gucci showcased their SS20 collection at Milan Fashion Week this Sunday and by this point, it is generally understood that the brand isn’t shy of sparking controversy and noise – think sweaters resembling Blackface and Sikh-styled turbans displayed at AW ‘18. Though it is not uncommon for Gucci to be called out with a flurry of hashtags and Instagram posts after-shows, it is pretty much unheard of for the brand to be condemned by one of their models during a show.
Well, Ayesha Tan-Jones did just that.
Tan-Jones, signed to Anti-Agency London, considers herself an “activist and artist” outside of being a model. The model would later write on Instagram the reasoning behind her demonstration at the Gucci Runway Show: “many of the other Gucci models who were in the show felt just as strongly as I did about this depiction of straightjackets”.
“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”.
The collection featured white jackets with buckles mirroring those straightjackets worn during a “cruel time in medicine when mental illness was not understood” according to Tan-Jones. The room was largely laboratory-white with the models being rolled down on a conveyor belt, making Ayesha feel like a “piece of factory meat”.
Gucci, however, gave their own interpretation of the show on their Instagram and stated the utilitarian and uniformed pieces represented how “through fashion, power is exercised… [eliminating] self-expression”. The brand wanted to highlight how through fashion, social norms are created and hence limit and constrain identity and individuality.
With a proven track record to shock and offend, Gucci beckons one to question whether controversy is part of their marketing strategy to gain public attention. But with even their own models feeling morally divided on the runway, it will be interesting to see where the brand will go from here and whether they will repeat their past performances in seasons to come?
Quotes taken from the Instagram accounts of Gucci and Ayesha
Words by Hena Sharma
Graphics by Fiona Campbell