Models staring into the distance in white 'fashionable' straight jackets opened the show of Gucci's 2019 Milan fashion week show. Yet, one model stood out from the crowd. In an unplanned move, confirmed by a press officer, she held her hands up with the words "mental health is not fashion" written on her palms.
Model Ayesha Tan Jones has ignited a viral controversy about yet another one of Gucci's choices.
Straight jackets are not fashionable, and neither is mental health. Ayesha Tan Jones has had her own personal struggles with mental health and has seen immediate family members affected by everything from depression to schizophrenia. She decided to take a stand against the choices made by Gucci because it was not only "in bad taste" but also "unimaginative and offensive to the millions of people around the world affected by these issues."
Some have come to the defense of the fashion giant, calling it a "provocative reminder of submission [rather] than a glamorization of insanity," according to actor and model Hari Nef, who was in attendance. Creative director for Gucci, Alessandro Michele, explained his rationale behind the show's opening sequence. He'd been thinking about "humanity and uniforms," focusing on the oppression of people through uniforms, and believing straight jackets to be the "highest type of uniform."
As any good public relations professional or student will tell you, the response by the company is merely a strategic move that was set-up before the event in case of backlash. For a company that has faced significant backlash over numerous incidents, including the creation of a sweater reminiscent of blackface. While the company apologized and hired a diversity chief, it seems the move was in vain.
If the point was to depict uniforms and the oppression of people through uniforms, then straight jackets are not part of that equation. Straight jackets allude to mental health patients, no matter how much reasoning is used to state the opposite.
A better, less controversial way of depicting the intended goal would have been to have uniformly dressed models, in a neutral off-white, with the same haircut, shoes, and makeup, behind dark tinted glasses.
I hope Gucci has learned its lesson, stay as far away from straight jackets when trying to make a point, no matter how well-intentioned. .