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Kylie Jenner's Givenchy necklace is not ‘controversial’ – it's just plain offensive

“The interplay between art and social responsibility has produced some of the greatest designs the fashion industry has ever produced, but recently, this relationship has disintegrated into puerile shock tactics.”

Kylie Jenner has been criticised for wearing a controversial “noose necklace” from Givenchy's S/S 2022 collection.

Earlier this year, the Kylie Cosmetics mogul shared some snaps on Instagram of her latest outfit in Paris: an electric blue dress, glittery pink boots, and a noose-shaped necklace. The backlash has been swift.

PARIS, FRANCE - January 23: Kylie Jenner in Paris. (Photo by MEGA / GC Images)

One social media user described the necklace as “atrocious ethically,” noting that "considering how many […] people hurt themselves and how many people were forcefully put in one," while another person tweeted, “It just leaves [a] bad taste.

It's not the first time the necklace has been the centre of a public outcry. After it first appeared on the Givenchy catwalk in October 2019, Diet Prada, the fashion industry's unofficial social media watchdog, highlighted parallels with Burberry's widely-condemned noose hoodie, noting:

“You’d think the industry would’ve learned not to put things that resemble nooses around a model’s neck after the whole @Burberry noose hoodie debacle in 2019… This @givenchyofficial necklace that just came down the runway steers dangerously close to that same territory. Really makes you wonder how no one noticed, but alas… history repeats itself.”

PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 23: Kylie Jenner is seen heading back to her hotel on January 23, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by MEGA / GC Images)

At the time, The Guardian reached out to Givenchy for a comment. A spokesperson said, "The house do not have an official response on this.”

Liz Kennedy, who modelled the look, also issued a statement, writing, "Suicide is not fashion. How could anyone overlook this and think it would be okay to do this especially in a line dedicated to young girls and youth … Not to mention the rising suicide rates worldwide. Let’s not forget about the horrifying history of lynching either.”

Marco Gobbetti, Burberry's chief executive officer, apologised for the look, telling CNN, “We are deeply sorry for the distress caused by one of the products that featured in our A/W 2019 runway collection.”

The interplay between art and social responsibility has produced some of the most breathtaking moments in fashion. The late Vivienne Westwood, for example, saw the runway's potential as a site for political activism and rebellion, highlighting everything from political inaction on climate change to human rights abuses. However, brands are increasingly resorting to puerile shock tactics. See Balenciaga's holiday campaign, which featured children posing with teddy bears (or “plush bear bags”) that appeared to be dressed in BDSM fetishwear. They later posted a statement apologising for the campaign.

Paris Couture Week 2023 has already been controversial, as gowns adorned with fake animal heads graced the Schiaparelli runway (and front row – thanks to Kylie Jenner). While some – including PETA – have celebrated the gowns for being a “statement against trophy hunting (via Metro),” others – including Carrie Johnson – described them as “grim.”

The noose necklace, however, hasn't proved divisive. A noose is a symbol closely associated with suicide. And given that 700,000 people die by suicide every year, with suicide being the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds (via the World Health Organisation), it's no surprise that people are condemning the accessory. It's also particularly insensitive as multiple fashion industry figures – including Alexander McQueen, Kate Spade, and L'Wren Scott – have died by suicide in the past 15 years.

And – as Jessica Quillin, PhD, a fashion strategist and co-owner of It’s A Working Title, LLC, a boutique luxury strategy agency and think tank – tells GLAMOUR, the noose symbol is “suggestive of the long, brutal history of lynching or hanging of African-Americans in the United States.”

“In the age of social media, fashion brands, designers, and their army of associated celebrities and influencers are in a major position to impact people and enact social change, either for the good or the ill,” explains Quillin. In this case, fashion brands have a “responsibility not to glamourise suicide, self-harm and eating disorders.”

It's a huge disappointment to see such a controversial accessory reappear in public discourse – especially when worn by someone like Jenner, who enormously influences current beauty and fashion trends.

Although the fashion industry has made great strides in diversity and inclusion, the shock factor still supersedes any expectations of nuance or respect. As Quillin tells GLAMOUR, “It is just straight up myopic to send an accessory down the runway one year (and putting it on Kylie Jenner the next year) that is suggestive of a violent act and of one of the most painful chapters in Black history in the United States.”

As well as being grossly culturally insensitive, Givenchy's decision to create a fashion accessory out of a symbol associated with suicide (and Jenner's decision to wear it) simultaneously trivialises and glamourises a serious issue.

A spokesperson for Mind told GLAMOUR: “In 2021, there were 5,583 suicides registered in England and Wales (ONS), and we know that many more people attempt suicide or experience suicidal feelings.

"It's really important that we have open, respectful and safe conversations about suicide. And a key part of talking about suicide safely, as the Samaritans' best practice guidelines, is to avoid reporting methods of suicide and to avoid showing glamorised depictions of suicide.

"For anyone currently struggling with suicidal feelings, Mind's information has some suggestions for getting support:”

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

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