During the Gucci Spring/Summer 2020 fashion show in Milan on Sept. 22, model Ayesha Tan-Jones, who uses the pronouns they/them, walked down the runway and silently protested the outfit they were wearing.
The designer brand outfitted its models in a series of neutral, uniform-inspired ensembles, several of which resembled straitjackets. In an age when mental health awareness is at the forefront of the conversation, the designs seemed insensitive at best and cruel at worst.
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Tan-Jones found a subtle yet striking way to voice their opposition to the message, writing, "Mental health is not fashion" on their palms before the show. As Tan-Jones walked down the runway, they held their palms up, clearly visible for audience members and photographers.
The model later shared a video of the blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment on Instagram, and described their inspiration for protesting: "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."
Tan-Jones also argued that the stigma behind mental health issues must end, sharing how they felt offended by the collection.
"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."
In a separate post, Tan-Jones encouraged their followers to be empathetic toward those facing mental health issues: "I want to use this opportunity to remind people that this sort of bravery, is only a simple gesture compared to the bravery that people with mental health issues show everyday. To have the bravery to get out of bed, to greet the day, and to live their lives is an act of strength, and I want to thank you for being here and being YOU ! ☀️"
In a statement to TODAY Style, Tan-Jones said they are thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive reaction to their runway moment.
"It feels incredible to have such amazing support from people on the internet, and it shows that mental health is an issue that affects so many and bringing the conversation into the public sphere is essential if we are to end the stigma around mental health. We must get people talking about this important issue, to shine a light, bring understanding and acceptance of everyone's unique mental health journey. I hope we can continue to talk, raise awareness and, most of all, support our loved ones, friends or even strangers in any way we can through their mental health," they said.
The model is even donating their entire modeling fee from Gucci to mental health charities, and revealed that some other models will also be donating a portion of theirs as well.
This is the third time in recent months that Gucci has faced growing criticism from consumers for their insensitive choices. In May, the brand was accused of cultural appropriation when they started selling a $790 turban. Earlier this year, Gucci also faced backlash after selling a balaclava sweater that resembled blackface.