Fashion Week is in full swing, kicking off in Paris, London, Milan and ending in New York. You have big name brands like Fendi, Prada, Versace, Ferragamo and Gucci to show off spring and summer styles for 2020. Celebrities all prepare for fashion week, and brands send them free clothing with tickets to be the first to preview what can be next season’s hottest fashion. Jennifer Lopez closed out Versace’s Runway in her iconic Grammy Dress. The 50 year old actress made her official runway appearance in an updated version of the plunging palm print dress she wore to the Grammys in 2000. While everyone commented on J.Lo’s iconic moment, Gucci, yet again, sparked controversy on the runway.
Fashion has had a very controversial year. H&M was called out for a childrens sweater that read “coolest monkey in the jungle,” that featured an African American modeling the sweater on their website. Social media blew up over the picture calling H&M racist. Celebrities like G-Eazy and The Weeknd who were partners with the brand severed ties. H&M released a formal apology and pulled the photos. Prada was also ignited on twitter for their fantasy charms. They pulled their Otto character from the after images surfaced of the black animal having oversized red lips, sparking comparisons to blackface. Gucci’s Fashion week ended with another controversial design. In December 2018 Gucci was called out for their design of a black turtleneck with a red-lined cut out for customers’ mouths. The $890 turtleneck was inspired by “Vintage ski masks” according to Gucci. Buyers’ thought otherwise comparing the turtleneck to blackface. Celebrities T.I. and Spike Lee announced on social media they were boycotting both Gucci and Prada. They also urged other celebrities to boycott the brands. Gucci issued an apology stating, “we consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make,” according to USA Today.
Gucci had planned a comeback after their last controversial design but fell short once again when they chose to use a Straitjacket as an accessory. Ayesha Tan-Jones protested during the runway show, a London based model, musician and artist who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, wasn’t very fond of Gucci’s use of Straitjackets as an accesory. Tan-Jones decided to take matters into their own hands, literally. As models walked out dressed in white with their arms by their sides, Tan-Jones raised their hands, where they had written a message that read, “Mental Health is not Fashion.”
Tan-Jones felt that the stigma around mental health needs to end. They mentioned how they have struggled with mental illness. According to NYDailyNews, they mentioned that it was, “hurtful and insensitive for a major fashion houses such as Gucci to use this imagery as a concept for a fleeting fashion moment.”
Gucci released a statement saying the series of looks were meant to make a broader statement on societal constraints. Gucci also stated the clothing was used as a statement and would not be sold.
This is a stigma that is ongoing; 1 in 25 Americans are living with a serious mental illness, 1 in 10 experience a period of major depression, and 1 in 5 adults experience a mental health issue. Models have taken it upon themselves to bring light to the situation and donate a portion of their fees from the show to mental health charities. Just because a brand is large and sells expensive clothing, does not mean it is okay to profit off of mental health.