Straightjackets and IV drips on the fashion runway

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.

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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.

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This article is originally published on The Peak Singapore.

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