Fashion house Burberry has been forced to apologise after showcasing a hoodie with a ‘noose’ hanging from its neck in the designer’s Autumn/Winter 2019 collection at London Fashion Week.
Model Liz Kennedy, who took part in Burberry’s show, said her family has been impacted by suicide and that seeing the jumper during her fitting left her feeling “extremely triggered”.
“Suicide is not fashion,” Kennedy wrote on Instagram, next to a photo of the jumper. “It is not glamorous nor edgy.”
Following her complaint, the product and all images related to it were removed from production and all promotion by the brand.
Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti told HuffPost UK: “We are deeply sorry for the distress caused by one of the products that featured in our A/W 2019 runway collection Tempest.
“Though the design was inspired by the marine theme that ran throughout the collection, it was insensitive and we made a mistake.”
HuffPost UK has decided not to publish or link to images of the jumper – a brown hoodie with rope ties knotted below the neckline, designed by Riccardo Tisci – in case it proves triggering.
Tisci, who is Burberry’s chief creative officer, said he is “deeply sorry for the distress that has been caused” and added he will make sure it does not happen again.
“How could anyone overlook this and think it would be okay to do this especially in a line dedicated to young girls and youth,” Kennedy asked.
She also highlighted a double context: both the rising suicide rates around the world and the “horrifying history” of racial lynching in the US.
Kennedy claimed that in the dressing room before the Burberry show, people hung the rope from the ceiling to try and determine how to tie the knot properly.
She also claimed that when she complained about the jumper and how it had impacted her, she was told: “It’s fashion. Nobody cares about what’s going on in your personal life so just keep it to yourself.”
Gobbeti said the experience Kennedy describes “does not reflect” Burberry’s values. “We will reflect on this, learn from it and put in place all necessary actions to ensure it does not happen again,” he said.
Dr Antonis Kousoulis, from the Mental Health Foundation, said he was angered by the image and said big brands like Burberry should, like the media, adhere to the same standards around suicide and be more mindful of how products might impact people.
“It’s not a media company but it’s heavily featured in the media so the same guidelines would apply,” he said. “There are thousands of people who have been impacted by suicide. At the very least, brands should be thoughtful that images can be triggering.”
He also said there needs to be greater diversity in the design process to ensure products like this don’t end up on the catwalks and in stores.
“There’s a question of diversity. Where are the decisions being made? They could be positive agents of change if they allowed diversity into the creative process.”
Kennedy was praised for speaking out about the jumper by her followers on Instagram – although some asked why she continued to walk for the brand.
“The issue is not about me being upset,” she wrote. “There is a bigger picture here of what fashion turns a blind eye to, or does, to gain publicity. A look so ignorantly put together and a situation so poorly handled. I am ashamed to have been apart of the show.
“I did not post this to disrespect the designer or the brand but to simply express an issue I feel very passionate about.”
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.