Pin It
Gucci runway mental health protest artist YaYa Bones

Gucci responds to the runway protest that took place at its SS20 show

Model YaYa Bones wrote ‘MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT FASHION’ on their hands in response to the show’s ‘insensitive’ themes

A model yesterday staged a protest on Gucci’s SS20 runway. Taking place in a stark, brightly lit white space filled with plastic waiting room chairs and with metal shutters covering the doors, the show began with a number of stony-faced models dressed in looks designer Alessandro Michele said were inspired by straitjackets. They were transported down the runway on a moving conveyor belt, as a minimal track featuring soundbites such as “I don’t even know what normal would be” and “I guess I’m not a standard person” played overhead. 

Model Ayesha Tan-Jones, aka YaYa Bones, who walked in one of the straitjacket-inspired ensembles, wrote the words ‘MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT FASHION’ on their palms ahead of the show, holding up their hands to the cameras as they made their way around the space.

“I chose to protest the Gucci SS20 runway show as I believe, as many of my fellow models do, that the stigma around mental health must end,” Tan-Jones wrote on Instagram afterwards. “As an artist and model who has experienced my own struggles with mental health, as well as (having) 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 then went on to highlight the fact that straitjackets are a ‘symbol of a cruel time in medicine when mental illness was not understood, and people’s rights and liberties were taken away from them while they were abused and tortured in the institution’.

According to the Italian label, in a post published on its Instagram, the first segment of the show was designed to demonstrate how, through fashion, ‘power is exercised over life to eliminate self-expression’. It added that the white looks at the beginning of the show would not go into production and would not be on sale. Models wearing the actual SS20 collection began to file out shortly after the opening segment, with sexy slip dresses accessorised with leather cuffs and collars, slick leather pencil skirts and tight, bright sweaters all on the line-up. 

Soon after the show, Gucci posted a more detailed explanation of the concept to its Instagram in response to Tan-Jones’ claims, before a spokesperson for the label released a full statement. 

“The show presented how society today can have the ability to confine individuality and how Gucci can be the antidote. It was a journey from conformity to freedom and creativity. Uniforms, utilitarian clothes, such as straitjackets, were included on the catwalk as the most extreme version of restriction imposed by society and those who control it. The white outfits were a statement for the fashion show and part of a performance, in the sense of setting the context for what followed,” it read.

Notably, Gucci’s SS20 show was entirely carbon neutral for the first time, with much of the set and materials used for the show – including the invites – made from recycled and recyclable materials. Similarly, Burberry’s latest presentation, which took place in London last week, was also carbon offset.

UPDATED on September 24: As reported by the BBC, Ayesha Tan Jones has revealed they will donate a portion of their paycheck from the SS20 Gucci show to charity, with a number of other models also reportedly set to contribute part of their fee to mental healthy charities.