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YaYa Bones draws attention to fashion’s mental health problem

Non-binary musician and model YaYa Bones staged an unexpected silent protest at Gucci’s SS20 fashion show, criticising the brand’s blatant insensitivity towards mental health.

Gucci is no stranger to controversy, its most recent scandals involving a campaign for a sweater that resembled blackface and a headpiece that was basically a Sikh turban. However, it’s rare to see a brand’s mistakes called out on the runway, much less by a model wearing its clothes.

During this year’s fashion week in Milan, Gucci’s show took place in a bleak, brightly lit space with metal shutters covering the doors and plastic waiting room chairs for attendees.

The clinical room was reminiscent of a hospital or asylum and to make matters worse, models were sent down the conveyer belt catwalk wearing reworked versions of garments historically worn in psychiatric wards.

‘Alessandro Michele designed these blank-styled clothes to represent how through fashion, power is exercised over life, to eliminate self-expression. This power prescribes social norms, classifying and curbing identity,’ they said in a statement issued on Instagram this Monday.

While they have responded to the backlash explaining that it was part of a broader concept about breaking free, you’d think they might’ve learned by now the importance of addressing delicate subjects in a tasteful way.

Instead, they defended the concept ‘as a provocative reminder of submission than a glamorisation of insanity’ which has provoked even more outrage online.

Ayesha Tan Jones (YaYa Bones) however, refused to let it slide. Walking to the front the front of the runway dressed in one of the straitjacket ensembles, they held up their hands to the cameras revealing ‘MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT FASHION’ written across their palms.

Having previously suffered with depression themselves, they found Gucci’s design choices deeply offensive, vulgar and triggering, taking to social media to comment further. ‘As an artist and model who has experienced my own struggles with mental health, it is hurtful for such a major fashion house to use this imagery as a concept for a fleeting fashion moment,’ they wrote.

Accusing Gucci of presenting these issues as ‘props for selling clothes in today’s capitalist climate,’ they added that it was ‘in bad taste to use outfits alluding to mental patients rolled out on a conveyor belt as if a piece of factory meat.’

Jones will donate their fee from the show to mental health charities alongside other models who are under the same impression that fashion labels do not pay close enough attention to how they are feeling.

‘We are constantly being judged for our bodies and our image, and although we are privileged, in many ways, we also have fragile minds,’ said Jones. ‘Models are not given the space to have a voice when it comes to what designers put them in and I’m fed up. It felt contradictory for me not to speak out and use this platform.’

Attributing their courage to peacefully protest to the other models who supported them, it goes without saying that Jones started a significant conversation regarding how unacceptable this really is.

Gucci have since mentioned that they weren’t aware of Jones’ intentions and that the outfits were simply part of a performance, ‘the most extreme version of a uniform dictated by society and those who control it.’

Despite this blunder, the show was notably entirely carbon neutral for the first time ever, with the majority of the set and materials – including all the invites – made from recycled and recyclable materials.

It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but here’s hoping they’re a little more conscious in the future because isn’t it really about time that fashion became more aware?