December 10 2013 Latest news:
by Imogen Blake & Daniel Wittenberg
Thursday, October 3, 2013
A Chalk Farm fancy dress shop has defended its decision to keep selling “psycho ward” costumes in the face of a national backlash that has seen the outfits pulled from supermarket shelves.
Escapade, in Chalk Farm Road, has vowed to continue stocking the controversial suits after similar ones were removed from sale by Tesco and Asda last week – amid heavy criticism that they trivialise mental illness and stigmatise sufferers.
Gospel Oak resident and ex-Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who has suffered from mental health problems, said Escapade should follow the example of the supermarket giants by apologising and pulling the costumes from shelves.
He said: “I don’t know what on earth could possess these people to sell such costumes. It is vulgar, offensive and stupid and it shows we are still in the Dark Ages when it comes to understanding mental illness.”
Escapade marketing executive Hal Sinden said the firm will not be dropping the costume range.
He insisted that the outfits are based on The Silence Of The Lambs killer character Hannibal Lecter and are simply an extension of the film’s merchandising.
“We think people are intelligent enough to be responsible when they wear it,” he said. “It is their responsibility if they choose to wear it offensively.
“We do not wish to denigrate the work of mental health charities, but our products are reflective of historical or literary characters and it is a popular item. If fancy dress wasn’t special or provocative, it would just be called dress. We are sensitive to complaints but we have had so much support for the costumes, even from sufferers of mental illness.”
As well as selling the same psycho ward costume that Tesco removed from sale, Escapade also offers party-goers the chance to dress up as a “cell block psycho” – another outfit based on Hannibal Lecter, as a gothic nurse from an “insane asylum” in a straight- jacket and as someone “goin’ out of my mind”.
Mental health campaigner and Highgate resident Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of charity SANE, said the costumes are “hurtful” for people with mental health problems.
She said: “The costumes are horrible and I wouldn’t want my children wearing them, but it is the link between horror and mental health that is hurtful.”
Tesco and Asda have both promised to donate significant sums to mental health charities.