'Mental health is not fashion’: Gucci model protests label’s straitjackets during runway show

Ayesha Tan-Jones staged an unplanned mental health protest on the Gucci catwalk at Milan Fashion Week. (Photo: Getty)

Gucci model staged an unplanned runway protest against the brand’s use of straitjackets during Milan Fashion Week this weekend.

On Sunday, as models hit the spring/summer 2020 catwalk wearing what appeared to be reworked, high-fashion versions of the garments used in mental health clinics, Ayesha Tan-Jones held up their hands to reveal the words “Mental health is not fashion.”

The model and musician, who identifies as nonbinary, later shared a video from the show on Instagram. In the accompanying statement they said that as someone who had previously suffered with mental health issues, they felt it important to take a stand against the use of the garments.

“I chose to protest the S/S 2020 Gucci runway show as I believe, as many of my fellow models do, that the stigma around mental health must end,” the statement began.

“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,” they 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.”

While many applauded the model for taking a stand, the actor and model Hari Nef defended the show’s concept, writing on Instagram: “It was more a provocative reminder of submission than a glamorization of insanity.”

In response to the protest, Gucci issued a statement on Instagram explaining that the straitjackets were included as a symbol of "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," it continued, explaining that creative director Alessandro Michele designed the clothes "to represent how through fashion, power is exercised over life, to eliminate self-expression."

Yahoo U.K. has contacted Gucci for further comment, but a spokesperson confirmed to The Independent that the brand was not aware of Jones's intentions to protest during the show and added that the white outfits were a "statement" and "part of a performance."

Ayesha Tan-Jones: "Mental health is not fashion." (Photo: Getty)

The high-fashion brand has had something of a controversial year. Back in February, Gucci faced heavy criticism for selling a balaclava jumper that was widely said to resemble the racist trope of blackface.

And in May the fashion house sparked a cultural appropriation row after selling a turban as a style accessory.

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