Model Ayesha Tan Jones silently protested on the Gucci runway Sunday – with their hands. The words "MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT FASHION" were written on their palms.
The British activist, who identifies as nonbinary, flashed their ink on the catwalk in response to the imagery of Gucci's Milan Fashion Week show, which began with still models in white straitjackets and sandals atop a conveyor belt.
In Tan Jones' words, using "outfits alluding to mental patients, while being rolled out on a conveyor belt as if a piece of factory meat … is vulgar, unimaginative and offensive to the millions of people around the world affected by these issues."
They continued: "I chose to protest the Gucci S/S 2020 runway show as I believe, as many of my fellow models do, that the stigma around mental health must end."
Gucci has not returned USA TODAY's request for comment.
But the design house defended the presentation on social media, saying the beige and ivory looks were meant to be seen as part of larger fashion statements about society and control. The "first blank-style looks" – that were part of a larger, colorful fashion week presentation – were intended to "represent how through fashion, power is exercised over life to eliminate self-expression," Gucci said.
The group of first blank-style looks by #AlessandroMichele of the #GucciSS20 fashion show represent how through fashion, power is exercised over life to eliminate self-expression. #mfwpic.twitter.com/wrpKVARc7f— gucci (@gucci) September 22, 2019
The straitjackets mark just the latest controversial clothing that Gucci has been associated with this year. The fashion house faced backlash in February when it was called out for "blackface" fashion, and in May it dealt with an outcry over its $790 "Indy Full Turban" sold online. Gucci hired a head of diversity in July as part of a larger inclusion initiative announced earlier this year.
In an interview with BBC, Tan Jones said they will donate their modeling fee to mental health charities.
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