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Fashion Company Kimhēkim's Use of 'Sick' Models With IV Poles Sparks Outrage

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Fashion brand Kimhēkim faced backlash from the chronic illness community after it had models strut down the runway during Paris Fashion Week on Tuesday wheeling fake IV poles.

In videos shared on Instagram, models walked down the runway to celebrate Kimhēkim’s spring/summer 2020 fashion line with a fake IV pole, complete with fake bandaging attaching the mock IV bag to the model’s arm.

According to Teen Vogue, other Kimhēkim models donned white T-shirts with “sick” written across the front. One Instagram post included “attention seeker” in the caption showing the model with the IV pole to tease the upcoming show.

The backlash to Kimhēkim in the comments on Instagram was swift, largely from those with chronic illness who called out Kimhēkim for co-opting what’s a very real medical journey for many into “attention-seeking” “art.”

“What is this?? Being sick isn’t a fashion accessory,” wrote one Instagram commenter.

Others echoed similar criticisms of Kimhēkim’s decision to use IV poles and sickness as a prop in the runway show:

You should be ashamed of yourself. Healthcare and disabilities aren’t fashion and they shouldn’t be used so you can drum up attention for yourself. Come up with a decent idea instead of intentionally upsetting people with your ‘art.’

From someone who has a chronic illness and is always in and out of hospital, this is not cool.

Illness is not fashion and it’s not cute to send perfectly healthy models down the runway with fake IVs.

In a now-deleted Instagram post, Kimhēkim also posted photos of just the IV bags. Teen Vogue reported the caption on that post read, “BOOST YOUR ENERGY • BE YOUR SELF • KIMHEKIM • VITAMINE • IV • DRIP.” Advocates also called out this post from the company.

“Wouldn’t it be so much nicer if you donated fluids to disabled people who can’t afford the treatments they need instead? And never use these as props again,” wrote a commenter in response, according to Teen Vogue. “Just hire disabled people instead!!!!!”

Earlier this week, another fashion brand, Gucci, faced criticism after it dressed models in clothing resembling straight jackets. Model Ayesha Tan-Jones staged an unplanned protest in response to the brand’s plain-styled clothes in Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2020 show at Milan Fashion Week. They wrote “mental health is not fashion” on their hands, along with a lengthy Instagram post explaining why it can be hurtful to use health issues to sell clothing.

“Presenting these struggles as props for selling clothes in today’s capitalist climate is vulgar, unimaginative and offensive to the millions of people around the world affected by these issues,” wrote Tan-Jones.

The Mighty reached out to Kimhēkim for comment and has yet to hear back.

Header image via Kimhēkim’s Instagram

Originally published: September 27, 2019
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