CW: This article mentions suicide which could be distressing to some readers.
How has our mental health been affected through the fashion industry? Through recent years the media and the pandemic alike have highlighted how important mental health is within our society. With figures revealing suicide is one of the main causes of death amongst 10 to 34-year-olds, having mental health has become a priority within our generation. As social media platforms become increasingly popular with anonymous profiles, it may come as no surprise this has negative implications such as cyberbullying and trolling. Something which this generation has suffered greatly through.
But how has the fashion industry affected this? The famous line from The Devil Wears Prada, "I'm just one stomach flu away from my goal weight" perfectly embodies the 'at any cost' mindset which the fashion industry has intertwined into society.
Prioritising mental health in our society
To be specific, mental health can be defined as having "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community". Throughout the past year, this has become a priority within our society as anxiety and uncertainty have been rife.
With many experiencing isolation and loneliness, brands such as JanSport, Kenneth Cole, and Boohoo have begun to raise awareness, encouraging people to seek help. However, continuing with specificity, statistics reveal those working within the fashion industry are 25% more likely to experience mental illness. Why might this be and how can we change it?
How the fashion industry can be blamed
Through its fast-pace, demand for the highest standards, and heavily anticipated nature, the fashion industry has become a hub for mental illnesses through stress and anxiety. A PR specialist shared their experience working within the industry stating "Mentally it was like working in a machine — how much longer do I need to do this until... I move up to the next level where I can enjoy working in fashion a little bit?", emphasising the stress faced when working in such a competitive environment.
"Mentally it was like working in a machine — ‘how much longer do I need to do this until... I move up to the next level where I can enjoy working in fashion a little bit?’”
In addition to this, the industry's obsession with making women and men alike feel imperfect due to photoshop and size 6 models has created a surge of disorders such as body dysmorphia, anorexia, and bulimia. A recent study found models are being pressured to jeopardize their health and safety as a prerequisite for employment, highlighting how the fashion industry can be blamed for mental illnesses amongst models.
With the possibility of outfits going 'viral' and influencers creating trends, it's almost impossible to think how much pressure the industry can face due to societies obsession with instant gratification and Fashion FOMO (fear of missing out). As 'same-day delivery' and 'next-day delivery' continues to grow, we aim to create a never-ending work rota, constantly feeding into this instant gratification. Therefore, it may come as no surprise for some that the fashion industry face this amount of stress and anxiety.
Boost of confidence
On the other hand, the fashion industry has been a saviour for most. Boosting confidence through outfits, wigs and accessories, the industry has been a pick-me-up for self-confidence. High street fashion has enabled people to afford fashion items, giving people an opportunity to express themselves through fashion. Empowering them through this accessibility. Shopping can even be beneficial. With 'retail therapy' releasing dopamines in your brain through new purchases, shopping has the ability to make people happy. So how can we shift the industry to enable good outcomes rather than bad?
First and foremost, the fashion industry should accommodate all sizes. We ostracise when we only go up to certain sizes and display models who are one size with similar mannequins. This can create a sense of self-doubt. Making consumers believe they can't wear certain items because it has never been displayed on someone their size. This creates an opportunity for mental illnesses to arise. The positive effect of seeing diverse models online, within advertisements and on TV displayed around the globe is undeniable. Therefore, inclusivity is key for mental health.
With the increasing number of suicides by those within the fashion industry, the correlation with mental illnesses has become clear. Therefore, creating a space to talk and providing support for those within the industry can aid with the pressures faced. As well as prioritising rest and leisure. The fashion industry is global and must take responsibility. Prioritising mental health for those working within the industry and those exposed to it is essential. This can be through treating mental health the same way one would physical health.