Talk about fashion news going viral. At Gucci’s recent spring/summer 2020 show, designer Alessandro Michele struck a nerve when he sent models down a moving conveyor belt dressed in straitjacket-inspired outfits. Compounding this performance was the clinical event space, the waiting room-esque chairs, and the soundtrack, which delivered lines like “I don’t even know what normal would be”. This prompted one of the show’s models, Ayesha Tan-Jones, to walk the runway in silent protest, with the words “mental health is not fashion” printed on her palms.
Just days after this made headlines, South Korean brand Kimhekim drew flak at Paris Fashion Week for decking its models out in T-shirts that read “sick”, and hooking them up to IV drips. While Gucci had defended themselves saying they were trying to make a statement against conformity in society – adding that the straitjacket- inspired styles would not have been produced for sale – Kimhekim’s designer (also called Kimhekim) said that his designs were about “attention-seekers” who spend their summer vacations in hospital.
Invoking the names of art and parody for fashion unfortunately won’t cut it in the face of such blatant insensitivity – both towards the people who are afflicted by real physical or mental illness, and also their caregivers and loved ones. It sure gives the term “fashion victims” new meaning.