A nonbinary model silently protested Gucci's Spring/Summer 2020 show at Milan Fashion Week on Sunday over the brand's "offensive" decision to use straightjackets in an allusion to "mental patients."
Ayesha Tan-Jones held up their hands to display the message, "Mental health is not fashion" while rolling down the runway.
"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," Tan-Jones said, CNN reports.
"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 conveyor belt as if a piece of factory meat," they continued. "Presenting these struggles as props for selling clothes is vulgar, unimaginative and offensive to the millions of people around the world affected by these issues."
Tan-Jones told BuzzFeed News the decision to protest was "last minute," and came the night before the show after another model “walked off the job” because he was “disgusted by the clothes and chose to go home.”
"For me, I chose to use the platform to highlight the issue," they said.
In another Instagram post, Tan-Jones thanked those who had reached out on social media to offer their support, and said they hope "we will share this same support to our friends, siblings, loved ones, acquaintances, internet friends or even strangers, who might be going through tough times with their Mental Health."
Gucci responded to the controversy with an Instagram post of its own, arguing the look, by designer Alessandro Michele, was intended to symbolize "the most extreme version of a uniform dictated by society and those who control it," and clarified that the garments would not be for sale.
It continued by saying the "blank-styled clothes...represent how through fashion, power is exercised over life, to eliminate self-expression."
"This power prescribes social norms, classifying and curbing identity. The Creative Director’s antidote is seen in the Gucci Spring Summer 2020 lineup of 89 looks, he has designed a collection that conveys fashion as a way to allow people to walk through fields of possibilities, cultivate beauty, make diversity sacrosanct and celebrate the self in expression and identity."
This is not the first time the brand has gotten into trouble for its designs. Earlier this year, Gucci pulled a turtleneck resembling blackface. It also received criticism for selling a turban for $800, which brought accusations of cultural appropriation.