The Industry That Breaks You: Mental Health On The Inside Of Fashion



The fashion industry is a world of luxury, extravagance and fast-paced living. When I think of mental health and fashion, I usually think of the impact the industry has on the consumers. Not so much the people at the heart of it. The glamorised life-style so often deflects the flaws of the industry. But with the death of fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen and Kate Spade, and many others suffering in silence. It's about time things changed.


Where the industry's gone wrong


To begin looking at how insiders of the industry suffer, it is important to explore what exactly makes it so damaging. The industry is built on a high-stake and pressured environment. Studies show that people in the fashion industry are 25% more likely to experience mental illness. With suicide rates amongst fashion students on the rise. Careers in fashion are fast-paced, demanding and competitive. Facing constant judgement and comparison with the whole world watching you. It's no easy job. Psychologist and Professor, Victoria Tischler said...

Designers, models and journalists in fashion are also highly competitive careers where people may feel there is too much at stake to reveal perceived weakness. Victoria Tischler

Tischler taps into the idea of 'weakness' not being welcome in the industry. This is most definitely a leading factor in the industry's toxic environment. There is too much pressure on individuals to maintain and live up to the perfect image in the industry. People want to see clothes on someone they want to be. But the reality of it is far from that. If people were more aware of the truth- I doubt they would still think that.


The pressure of body image


The fashion world is obsessed with looks. How the brand, the product but most importantly the model looks when trying to captivate an audience. Fashion is a glamorised industry but is also a multi-billion dollar enterprise. So, the mental health of their employees is not necessarily their first concern- making money is. This contributes towards the pressure placed on models as brands want people who fit into a certain category and are conventionally attractive to sell to an audience.


Being a model is hands down one of the most aspired careers in the industry. But certainly one of the toughest. A lot of the pressure of the industry naturally falls to your shoulders as a model. Constantly judged by your looks and your worth being calculated by them. And as a result, many face problems with their self-esteem. Moreover, the industry romanticises unrealistic beauty standards- which, as consumers, we find impossible to live up to. Let alone as someone working in the industry, their body judged by the world.


In a 2020 Vogue video interview, some models shared the negative impact the industry has had on their mental health. They mention the pressure to come across as 'perfect' all the time and how there is no training to cope with the stress of the industry. I would recommend everyone to watch this interview as it really gave me an insight into how detrimental the industry can be on the mental health of those inside of it. Above all, Vogue has taken a step in the right direction and provided a platform for models to be heard. Something we need to see more of.


Suffering in silence


The pressure of the industry does not only fall to the models, but it effects people in higher positions too. The tragic death of fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen and Kate Spade has shed light on the toxic side of fashion. With the 10 year anniversary of McQueen's death having passed, fashion's first high-profile suicide has left an enormous mark on the industry. McQueen suffered with severe anxiety, depression and addiction issues. All inflicted by the demands of his job with the burnout and intense work schedules. Which ultimately came at his cost.


The more recent death of fashion designer, Kate Spade has been another chance for re-evaluation. Her sister claimed the fear of ruining her "happy-go-lucky" image prevented Kate from seeking help for her mental health problems. Which is heart-breaking to hear. The industry has ingrained such a stigma surrounding mental illness and the pressure to maintain a certain image. This is costing people's lives.

Both these cases served as wake-up-calls for the fashion industry to realise the damage they are having on people's mental health. A chance to take action and make a change. However, not much has changed following the death of these designers. Which is not good enough.


Time to take action


Fashion and mental health needs to be spoken about more openly. The industry needs to take stock and realise that the mental health of their workers is far more important than hitting targets. The fact that people have lost their lives due to being unable to cope with the demands and pressures of their jobs, and the industry has yet to change is quite frankly shocking.


Introducing policies to ensure people working in the industry are more supported and have someone to talk to about coping with the environment would be a start. Although it is good that models are beginning to speak out against the harm caused by the industry. There is still a long way to go. But for now, we can only hope that there will be more positive change to the industry moving forward.