Olivia Harvey
September 25, 2019 8:00 am

On Sunday, September 22nd, Gucci debuted its spring/summer 2020 line as the final act of Milan Fashion Week. As always, Gucci fans were expecting an experience. The brand’s runway shows have a history of being quirky and somewhat creepy—remember when models carried their own heads at last year’s Milan Fashion Week? But this year, Gucci’s show crossed a line, and one of its own models spoke up in protest.

As The New York Times reported on September 23rd, Gucci opened its show by sending a slew of models down the hospital-blue, moving-platform runway in straitjacket-inspired looks. Models were strapped into their off-white linen jumpsuits, jackets, and dresses with canvas belts and buckles as they stared ahead, emotionless.

One model wearing a straitjacket-inspired button-up jumpsuit didn’t like the idea of the brand capitalizing on a method of “treatment” which was historically used on patients with severe mental health issues. To protest, the nonbinary model named Ayesha Tan Jones decided to display the message “mental health is not fashion” on their palms while walking the runway.

Jacopo Raule / Stringer, Getty Images

Tan Jones later uploaded a longer message on Instagram stating that they protested to help erase the stigma surrounding mental health. They called the straitjacket-inspired line, “unimaginative” and “offensive.”

“As an artist and model who has experienced my own struggles with mental health…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,” Tan Jones wrote on Instagram on September 23rd.

They continued, “[Straitjackets] are a symbol of a cruel time in medicine when mental illness was not understood, and peoples’ rights and liberties were taken away from them…It is in bad taste for Gucci to use the imagery of [straightjackets] and outfits alluding to mental patients, while being rolled out on a conveyer belt as if a piece of factory meat.”

Jacopo Raule / Stringer, Getty Images

Head of Gucci Alessandro Michele explained his thought process for the straitjacket-themed looks, per the Times.

“For me, the show was the journey from conformity to freedom and creativity,” Michele said. “Uniforms, utilitarian clothes, such straitjackets, were included in the fashion show as the most extreme version of restriction imposed by society and those who control it. These clothes were a statement for the fashion show and part of a performance.”

And because the show was rooted in freedom, Michele didn’t mind Tan Jones’ protest.

Although people are free to draw whatever conclusions they’d like to from the presence of straitjacket-inspired clothing in the Gucci show, this isn’t the first time Michele’s “creativity” has gotten him into trouble. Earlier this year, the fashion house found themselves pulling their Balaclava knit top, which heavily resembled Jim Crow-era blackface, from their stores.

And even more recently, Gucci tried to sell $800 Sikh Turbans as fashion accessories.

So it seems as though there are no checks and balances within the Gucci fashion house, which is scary for a brand that is so dominant in the fashion industry. Even though Tan Jones may be the last rung on the ladder to check Gucci’s ideas, we’re so glad someone on the inside decided enough was enough.

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