Mental Health Is Not Fashion

Gucci is a beloved brand known for its innovative yet timeless colors and designs. Meanwhile, during Milan Fashion Week, Gucci opened with a manufactured-like clad of models wearing all white. These models wore belts, buckles and straitjackets—all reminiscent of mental health institutions. For those unsure, straitjackets are a cover or strong over garment that binds to the body and is used to restrain the arms of a violent patient. While the Gucci brand unlikely had any intention of relating their straitjackets to mental health, it came across as kind of callous, to the point where a Gucci model named Ayesha Tan-Jones made a statement against the looks while walking the runway. Ayesha Tan-Jones, a non-binary model, took this opportunity to silently protest by revealing, “mental health is not fashion” scribbled on their hands while they stood at the end of the catwalk. 

After the show, Ayesha took to Instagram to make a full statement regarding the moment and said that the stigma surrounding mental health and illness (especially toward POC and LGBTQIA+ communities) needs to end. "I believe, as many fellow models do, that the stigma around mental health must end," they wrote. "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." Ayesha has received thousands of likes and comments from people supporting her statement. 

After the show, Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci, made a statement on the fashion faux pas and said the straitjacket-inspired looks were really just a very extreme version of a uniform. "For me, the show was the journey from conformity to freedom and creativity," Alessandro told the New York Times. “Uniforms, utilitarian clothes, such as 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.”

Fortunately, Michele stated that the line would not be released for people to purchase. Designer labels must be more thoughtful in their collections. Earlier this year, Gucci received scrutiny for trying to sell a balaclava-styled sweater that resembled blackface. Whether it be suggestive racism or insensitivity to mental health, Gucci must step up their game. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five U.S. adults experiences mental illness each year. One in six U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. Mental health should not be taken lightly. Clothing should make people feel confident and empowered, not the other way around. 

All images courtesy of Cosmopolitian.

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