CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness and suicide which could be distressing to some readers.
Mental health can affect anyone in the world, from young children to older generations. It can affect how a person thinks, feels, acts, handles stress, relates to others and makes choices in their lives. There are many different mental illnesses, from mood disorders like depression to eating disorders and body dysmorphia. Many factors can contribute to mental health illnesses, from genes and brain chemistry to individual and family history of mental illness and life experiences such as past trauma or abuse.
However, in recent years there has been more research into how fashion can affect mental health. It can have both negative and positive effects. Both people working in the fashion industry and the consumer can be affected by it. Lately, more brands have come forward to show their support of mental health.
The effects of fashion on mental health
Fashion has a lot of positive effects on mental health. Self-expression is a big part of our lives and is a reflection of who we are. One of the ways we express ourselves is through the clothing we wear. When we do this, we often feel a boost in our mental health. Mental health can affect how a person dresses. If someone is feeling good, they may dress up more. However, people feeling low may resort to comfortable clothing to help them feel more secure.
The colour of clothing can also affect our mental health. Some colours are known to affect people's moods. Using colours that have a positive effect on a person's mental health can help have a positive impact on consumers. It is also the same with materials used in fashion. The materials used can have a subconscious effect on a person's mental health. If clothes are uncomfortable, we are more likely to feel uneasy while wearing them, which affects some peoples mental health. More health-conscious customers may be more inclined to buy more natural fabrics that have less harmful chemicals.
Both people who work within the industry and the consumer can be affected by the industry. For consumers, one of the harmful effects of fashion is related to body image. Social media plays a big part in this. People can feel inadequate about their bodies when they see the way fashion influencers dress online. Body image can also affect fashion models. They are under a lot of pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards, and some models suffer from eating disorders due to this.
The pressure of the fashion industry can also harm the mental health of those working within it. Tight deadlines, long hours and working for free or on a non-existent salary at the start of your career can all negatively impact a person's mental health. The stories of Alexander McQueen and Kate Spade are sadly two examples of how the pressure of the industry can affect a person.
Brands advocating for mental health
To help combat the effects of mental health issues both within the industry and as a whole, many fashion brands have been doing a lot to help raise awareness. Awareness comes from both big brands to high street favourites, with many helping to improve the health of the consumer and employees.
H&M is one of the brands doing a lot for their employees. It has partnered with the UK charity Mind and holds workshops for its staff to help identify and support any mental health problems. Sweaty Betty is another brand aiming to improve the mental health of its staff and create a more supportive environment. The activewear brand offers its staff a weekly lunchtime yoga class. These classes help them disconnect from the stress of their work. Sweaty Betty also advocates for the mental health of its consumers.
In 2018 the Swedish brand Monki, owned by H&M, partnered with the charity Mental Health Europe. Their camping brought attention to the effect social media has on young people's mental health. They released three short-form videos that featured influences discussing the positive and negative consequences of social media. The videos talked about the issues surrounding anxiety and self-love in the fashion world. The influencers also spoke about how to lessen the impact social media has on mental health.
Since the death of Kate Spade, Kate Spade New York has donated over $1 million to a variety of organisations. Some of the money has gone to Crisis Text Line, The Fountain House and Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services. Other brands donating money to mental health charities and organisations include I’MMANY. They give 30% of the sales from their Flower Power range to the charity LoveLand, which supports the mental health of minority groups. The Mayfair Group teamed up with The Mental Health Coalition and Active Minds. They pledged a minimum of $10,000 made from their Answers May Vary campaign.
There are many more brands advocating for the mental health of both their employees and their consumers. From this, there will be a genuine and impactful change in people's lives.