When I talk about my mood influencing my style I don't just mean how I am feeling on one singular day. I’m really talking about having Bipolar and how that shapes my perception on style by utilising it as a form of expression. Mental health and fashion are important things in my life both separately and combined. It’s disappointing, then, to see major fashion house Gucci’s SS20 Milan runway show featuring models adorned in straitjackets. The disrespect is REAL. It was bad enough they were selling black face clothing in February and then managed to insult an entire race and religion by glamourising actual turbans in May, now this. I think it’s safe to say Creative Director Alessandro Michele and the Gucci team are on a winning streak when it comes to being highly offensive.
Queue Ayesha Tan-Jones, the bossin’ Model and Artist (@ayeshatanjones) who literally made their protest on the runway in question. Palms up and in silence as the conveyor belt slid the models along the catwalk, you could read their message simply and clearly “mental health is not fashion.” F%”&ing major kudos to you Ayesha for taking a stand on one of the biggest platforms possible in the very moment the offence was taking place. In an Instagram post shared after the show Ayesha poignantly stated “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.”
What a line like this does is disregard issues relating to mental health ESPECIALLY because of Alessandro Michele’s intentions. This line was to show “the journey from conformity to freedom and creativity… 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” was the statement he made to the New York Times after the show. His attempt to explain his intentions only highlights the ignorance about mental health which, frankly, so many people have.
He conveniently forgot the part where taking into consideration what using straitjackets could mean to others while in his creative process. And that is a fundamental problem which perpetuates the already large stigma surrounding anything mental health. As someone with Bipolar, I know all too well the struggle of being misunderstood. When I’m not stable in my mood, it’s the consideration of others who take the time to try to understand what I’m feeling which helps me through rough times. Consideration is key, so for a business as big as Gucci to miss the mark (again) only goes to show how far this and many other industries have to go in their understanding of mental health. It is not a “fleeting” issue like the line of clothing and designs displayed on a runway show. It’s here always and not to be forgotten come next season. Ayesha’s lead by example approach serves as a means for a snowball effect to take place and I really hope it does after their bold and brave actions.