Fashion Industry Unites in Protest as LGBTQ Protections in Italy Under Threat

A wave of protests in Italy are not dying down amid public outcry over LGBTQ rights and protections — and fashion players are speaking out.

Thousands of people gathered in Milan and Rome on Thursday to protest against the decision of Italy’s Senate to block the “DDL Zan,” a bill against homotransphobia, which would have extended passages of the penal code that already punishes discrimination and violence based on racial, ethical and religious beliefs to also include sex, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as disability.

The bill has been at the center of the public discussion over the past year, as its passage by the Senate has been repeatedly delayed for months and its content has faced fierce opposition by right-wing parties.

On Wednesday, indignation sparked in the country as the Senate not only voted down the bill — therefore rejecting the designation of discrimination and acts of violence against the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities and women, as hate crimes — when part of the political class loudly exulted for having managed to nix it.

The triggering videos of the moment immediately spread on social media, sparking strong reactions and mobilization as in 24 hours associations for LGBTQ rights, including Arcigay, Sentinelli and Coordinamento Arcobaleno, invited crowds to take their disappointment to the streets.

The fashion world immediately reacted and Italian designers including Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, Roberto Cavalli’s Fausto Puglisi, MGSM’s Massimo Giorgetti took part and shared images of demonstrations in Rome and Milan. Many more, such as Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele, Donatella Versace, Riccardo Tisci and GCDS’ Giuliano Calza, also used their respective personal Instagram accounts to get vocal about what is happening in the country.

A picture posted by Michele right after the Senate’s decision read: “It’s a very sad day for Italy. Shame on those who, today, decided not to encourage the birth of a more inclusive society. Shame on those who, today, applauded the rejection of basic human rights.”

Nearly 1,400 comments piled up under the post, including reactions from fellow designers like Marc Jacobs, Simon Porte Jacquemus and Roger Vivier’s creative director Gherardo Felloni, among many others.

Piccioli borrowed words from Italian film director and poet Pier Paolo Pasolini to express his feelings in content on Instagram.

In a post, Piccioli appears with “DDL ZAN” written on his hand and poses in front of a led light banner with Pasolini’s quote “Non vogliamo essere subito già cosí senza sogni,” which translates in English as “We don’t want to be already without dreams like this.”

“The DDL Zan is a law that protects the dignity of every individual, and those who applauded today applauded a failure of the morality of this country. It’s a strong signal, and strong must be the change we hope for to meet a future where people, all, are at the center of the world. I am here, I will not move, I will use my voice even louder than before. My country is not the one who applauded today but the one who will lead the change tomorrow,” read part of the caption flanking the image.

Portrayed in the same pose as Piccioli, with her hand raised, Versace wrote: “It was deeply painful to witness what happened in the Italian senate yesterday, especially at a time when the world is celebrating inclusiveness, the rights of LGBTQIA+ people, women and minorities of all kinds. The loss of #ddlzan is a defeat that affects us all. As an Italian citizen, I am ashamed of this. I will never stop lending my voice and giving my support to creating a just and fair society.”

While the image got reactions from the likes of Christopher Kane and Ricky Martin, Versace also shared the video of the Senate cheering for having blocked the bill in an Instagram story, captioning it “Heartbreaking to watch. This is not the example to follow.”

The same footage appeared on the profiles of other designers. Piccioli flanked it with another Pasolini quote that read: “T’insegneranno a non splendere. E tu splendi, invece,” in English, “They will teach you not to shine. And you shine, instead.”

Riccardo Tisci included an extensive caption in an Instagram post, writing: “Thanks to a certain political class, we have lost the opportunity to be a civil state, we have lost the opportunity to be a civilized people. They succeeded, they ditched the DDL Zan, a law that concerned the civil rights of all, and this was not enough, they also rejoiced for having succeeded, for having denied to those discriminated not to be so anymore. And this you call it victory?

“I strongly dissociate myself from this victory, screaming at it with all the breath in my [lungs], I dissociate myself from those Italian politicians, I dissociate myself from those people who feel represented by that political class, I dissociate myself from that Italy. A political class that fails to grasp the urgency of the present is destined to bury its nation, and today the present is called rights for all,” Tisci wrote.

This story first appeared on WWD.com.

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