A Reflection on Burberry’s Problematic Hoodie


Trigger Warning: This article contains discussions of suicide

By Miranda Smith, Third Year History of Art

Miranda Smith criticises Burberry's recent AW19 collection

Burberry’s AW19 collection has been -quite rightly - highly criticised recently as one of the garments that came down the London Fashion Week catwalk was a hoodie with drawstrings tied into a noose, tied around the neck of the model who walked in the ensemble.

The theme of the collection for this upcoming Autumn/Winter was the idea of the Tempest and the rebellion of youth. A motif supposedly running through the collection is a link to the nautical, although having looked at all the outfits, I cannot say that this is an obvious thematic trend: there are no other ropes tied in any other knots in any of the other garments. In fact, the only item that struck me as mildly nautical is a white men’s jacket with striped detailing on the cuffs, pockets and hems.

Otherwise, the collection is void of identifiers to this ‘theme’. There may be subtle hints, but if someone were looking briefly for something to render the noose compatible with the rest of the outfits, they would certainly not find it. I will happily confess that I do not know much about sailing, but never have I ever seen a noose on a boat. Ropes, maybe, but not a noose. Perhaps this is a case of the company realising that they need an excuse for putting such an offensive piece of clothing on the catwalk.

The company has apologised since the show and deemed the move “insensitive”, but I worry about whether this would have happened if Liz Kennedy had not spoken up so boldly and openly straight after the catwalk took place. Kennedy modelled for Burberry but did not wear the item in question.

In an Instagram post she has stated that when bringing up backstage before the show the fact that she was sensitive to such imagery and found it offensive, that she was told that “this is fashion” and was told to write a letter of complaint because the industry did not care about her personal life.

View this post on Instagram

@burberry @riccardotisci17 Suicide is not fashion. It is not glamorous nor edgy and since this show is dedicated to the youth expressing their voice, here I go. Riccardo Tisci and everyone at Burberry it is beyond me how you could let a look resembling a noose hanging from a neck out on the runway. How could anyone overlook this and think it would be okay to do this especially in a line dedicated to young girls and youth. The impressionable youth. Not to mention the rising suicide rates world wide. Let’s not forget about the horrifying history of lynching either. There are hundreds of ways to tie a rope and they chose to tie it like a noose completely ignoring the fact that it was hanging around a neck. A massive brand like Burberry who is typically considered commercial and classy should not have overlooked such an obvious resemblance. I left my fitting extremely triggered after seeing this look (even though I did not wear it myself). Feeling as though I was right back where I was when I was going through an experience with suicide in my family. Also to add in they briefly hung one from the ceiling (trying to figure out the knot) and were laughing about it in the dressing room. I had asked to speak to someone about it but the only thing I was told to do was to write a letter. I had a brief conversation with someone but all that it entailed was “it’s fashion. Nobody cares about what’s going on in your personal life so just keep it to yourself” well I’m sorry but this is an issue bigger than myself. A look so ignorantly put together and a situation so poorly handled. I am ashamed to have been apart of the show. #burberry.

A post shared by 🦎 (@liz.kennedy_) on

This breaches a more important issue in fashion where it comes across as though there are an awful lot of topics and subjects that are swept under the rug – just like in recent events where the industry happily turned a blind eye to Karl Lagerfeld’s dismissal of sexual assault. Something as topical as suicide, with the numbers of young people sadly taking their own lives growing year upon year, needs to be referenced with serious caution, and preferably never in a way which plays down the significance of it, or even better – never at all.

For a collection tailored towards a younger audience to include such an item is disgraceful, with many viewers being impressionable, particularly towards brands as large and esteemed as Burberry. As Kennedy stated, “suicide is not fashion”, and viewers must remember this. It is not cool or trendy, and there should be repercussions to any persons or brands that put this message across.

As well as the explicit link to suicide, the garment brings into question broader concerns of racism which Kennedy has touched upon in her statement – “let’s not forget about the horrifying history of lynching”. This comes after Gucci, Prada and Katy Perry have all recently been accused of attempting to profit off garments which remind viewers of black face. All items mentioned have been pulled from sale. Despite this, racism is still prevalent in the industry.

Clearly there are many issues that fashion needs to work on, which many would have hoped that they would have done by now. It is 2019 after all.

Most people who are thinking of taking their own life have shown warning signs beforehand.
These can include becoming depressed, showing sudden changes in behaviour, talking about wanting to die and feelings of hopelessness.  These feelings do improve and can be treated.

If you are concerned about someone, or need help yourself, please contact the Samaritans on 116 123.

Other student support services include:
Young Minds https://youngminds.org.uk/ 0808 802 5544
Nightline https://www.nightline.ac.uk/want-to-talk/
Papyrus https://www.papyrus-uk.org/ 0800 068 41 41
Student Minds http://www.studentminds.org.uk/findsupport.html

(Featured Image: Burberry/ Instagram)

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