When Ayesha Tan Jones walked down the catwalk for Gucci at their Milan fashion week, the model made an impromptu protest. After featuring in a segment with models wearing clothes based on straitjackets, Ayesha, who identifies as non-binary, held up the words ‘mental health is not fashion’ on their hands. Gucci defended the show, saying the jackets, designed by creative director Alessandro Michele, won’t be sold but were meant to represent ‘how society today can have the ability to confine individuality and how Gucci can be the antidote.
’ The models stood on a conveyor belt that moved them along the catwalk as they stared straight ahead, each dressed in a take on the straitjacket. After the show, Ayesha posted a video on Instagram and 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, is hurtful and insensitive for a major fashion house such as Gucci to use this imagery as a concept for a fleeting fashion moment’
Ayesha later added: ‘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.’ Ayesha’s followers responded to their post and thanked them for speaking out. One said: ‘This is so brave of you. I love Gucci as a brand and I appreciate Alessandro’s work but as someone who lives with anxiety disorder, I will think twice before purchasing anything from the house again. Thank you for raising up your voice.’ Another added: This was such a brave & meaningful thing to do, and I have so much respect for your message and the risks it must have taken for you to speak this truth.
Straitjackets have been used to oppress our most vulnerable people, and fashion continues to oppress so many people – from starved models to slave labour. Thank you for standing up for what you believe in!’ A Gucci spokesperson said: ‘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. Uniforms, utilitarian clothes, such as straitjackets, were included on the catwalk as the most extreme version of restriction imposed by society and those who control it.
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’s not the first time the fashion house has faced controversy this year. In February, they were forced to pull a £688 balaclava jumper because people said it looked like blackface.