Nothing is more exciting than seeing the beautiful designs that are displayed at London's Fashion Week. Between the 14th - 19th February, you will have the chance to see a range high-end and quirky fashion that is the epitome of art and creativity. It is a great opportunity for newer designers to make their mark on the fashion community, as well as give older designers the chance to impart their experience in the community and break fashion trends alike. Some of the events are so big that they are "invite only", meaning that you can only see the fashion show in person if you are an established figure within the fashion community.
Whilst we should always be ready to celebrate the fact that so many designers are willing to step outside of the box and try new things, that does not mean that it should come at the cost of sensitivity towards different communities and people. Whilst the fashion of the creative community always has surprised us over the years, the general shock this year has come from "Burberry" with their "Suicide Hoodie."
What was the "Suicide Hoodie?"
The Suicide Hoodie was part of Burberry's temptress collection which was not only created to represent a nautical theme, but also to hold a dedication, as creative director Riccardo Tisci stated, to "the youth of today."
The Hoodie itself is not remarkable to look at. For it is a dull brown with a fur outer coat. However, what does make it stand out is that its hoodie tassels are actually shaped in the form of a noose that hangs around the model's neck. Whilst the model herself does not have the ring of the noose around her neck, which would have made the coat far worse, but it certainly stands out due to the size of the bulky rope and its darker colour.
Obviously this insensitive fashion display did incite some anger from the audience, but also surprisingly from one of its own fashion models. Liz Kennedy, writing in a post on Instagram, said it was
"A look so ignorantly put together and a situation so poorly handled."
Backstage there were even jokes about the noose as it was hung from one of the ceilings. When she complained about it, as she did feel 'triggered', due to a recent suicide in her family, she was told that she should do it in the form of a letter and just get over it because it was just fashion. She was told that "nobody cares about what's going on in your personal life so just keep it to yourself."
For Liz Kennedy, and many of the audience members, whilst the overall outfit was distasteful in itself, it actually showed a potential ignorance in the fashion community that is given excuse through the idea of "creativity." For Liz, in particular, she mentioned that "the issue is not about me being upset, there is a bigger picture here of what fashion turns a blind eye to or does to gain publicity."
There is a clear question about what should be right to represent within the fashion community and what is emotionally harmful. Whilst topics should not be made off limits, a designer should be aware of what certain products look like and what sort of statement it gives its audience. Dark topics do not need to be off bounds but do need to be approached carefully with a clear empathetic emotional standing.
"Suicide is not Fashion"
In the UK alone, in 2017 around 5,821 people took their own lives, this being around 75% of men (4,382) and 25% of women (1,439). Whether you are a young adult, a middle-aged man or even one of the Escorts London, we all feel emotional pain and sometimes our anxiety and depression can take us down a rabbit hole that we never wanted to enter into in the first place. However, for those of us who are experiencing the worst that depression can give us, seeing triggering images (such as nooses) really does not help with any of their personal issues. In fact, it can only remind them of how they feel and how they may want to potentially act on self-harming desires. Not only this but if a family has gone through the tragedy of suicide and has lost a loved one, seeing these triggering images can solely remind them of the precious friends and family that they have lost.
It is important to be sensitive when broaching these topics, which is why they should not be swept under the rug or ignored. It is important that they are addressed head-on and rectified. Whilst it is not wrong to want to talk or design an outfit based on a deep or emotional subject, it is important to give an audience an insight into what they are seeing. Sensitivity and maturing towards a subject will always make it appropriate for your audience.
Whilst there was no taking back the overall design and impact of the hoodie, Burberry Boss, Marco Gobbetti, did say that Liz's overall experience "does not reflect who we are and our values". Instead, they are willing to "reflect on this, learn from it and put in place all necessary actions to ensure it does not happen again." Riccardo Tisci, the designer, even apologised and stated that "while the design was inspired by a nautical theme, I realise that it was insensitive".
Whilst it is fantastic news that the company apologised for the hoodie and stopped it from being publically displayed again, it is certainly not the first time that Fashion Icons and Giants have mishandled the sensitivity surrounding their fashion. In fact, Burberry is only the latest design that has been criticised this month. Other giants have also had products that have been pulled from the shelves due to their insensitivity, including:
• Gucci: A Black Woolen Jumper with a long neck and red lips- It was criticised for resembling blackface. • Katy Perry- A Black and White Faced Pair of Shoes- It was criticised for appealing racist.
Out of Mind, Out of the Box
Fashion has always had the unique ability to wow us with their unique and quirky designs. They can instantly change a high-fashion outfit to something that looks like an apocolypse fashionista has just taken centre stage. The beauty of design should be cherished and celebrated, but it is important to not let this get to our heads. There are still very sensitive topics in the world that deserve respect, or at least a warning attached to them to allow those who are easily affected to leave. Fashion is not an excuse for insensitivity. Instead, it should be used to highlight the importance of speaking about these topics, not just for shock value or higher sales.