In today's society, young adults are constantly comparing themselves to 'influencers' and peers, and feel the constant weight of keeping up with the latest fashion statements so they can feel comfortable and confident when stepping outside and attending events.
It is common knowledge to know that fast fashion is killing our environment and impacting humanity's overall health through new trends being produced at a rapid rate and at a cheap price. Brands continue to set new fashion trends to boost sales, creating a vicious cycle of fabric wastage. Some may find purchasing the latest lines thrilling and rewarding psychologically but it is only a short term fix, therefore feeding the cycle. Many studies have shown that mindless shopping can lead to physiological long term effects. In short, fashion does not benefit our mental health.
The pressure peers face today
If I conducted a survey, I can guarantee many of the participants would say they feel under pressure to buy new garments as it is deemed unacceptable to constantly wear the same outfit. In today's society, young adults feel the need to constantly buy items for occasions such as the first day of school or a party, in order to fit in and claim validation from peers such as compliments.
Fast fashion is now becoming a high priority issue as brands constantly produce new garments each week and customers donate or throw away their old closet. Every year people change their closet as it is filled with the old trends and they want to participate and consume the latest fashion. However, people are neglecting to see the impact it is causing on the environment and their mental health. For example, people don't stop to look at what happens to all the donated clothing, a lot of it contributes to fabric waste as stores cannot sell it all.
The pressure of keeping up with the latest trends causes unnecessary stress for young adults, impacting their mental and physical well being. A survey conducted by a British children's charity found that children are more materialistic than past generations and stress about not having the latest clothing lines and high-tech gadgets. It was found children of poor backgrounds were more likely to feel distressed. One of the professors on the research team, Philip Graham, discussed the commercial pressures having a worrying psychological effect on the children.
"One factor that may be leading to rising mental health problems is the increasing degree to which children and young people are preoccupied with possessions; the latest in fashionable clothes and electronic equipment. Evidence both from the United States and from the UK suggests that those most influenced by commercial pressures also show higher rates of mental health problems." - Philip Graham
Master manipulation of the consumer
Environmentally-conscious consumers cannot continuously update their wardrobe to follow the latest trends, whilst considering the harm towards the environment without the feeling of shame and guilt, and therefore impacting their mental health in the long term. The reason why fast fashion has thrived is due to the manipulation of the never-ending demand in consumers' minds. The international rise in social media has put more pressure on generations as their role models such as celebrities and influencers are constantly promoting new things as a form of paid promotion. Many of which claim to only promote items they use or believe in, but this can be questionable as they get paid regardless of if they actually use it or not.
The guilt associated with the fast fashion culture disrupts consumers inner peace as they are consciously aware of the damage they are contributing to. This can lead to anxiety, depression, and give provide a sense of worthlessness. However, this problem can be managed by shopping at sustainable brands who produce sustainable clothing and are environmentally aware. Sadly for some consumers, this option is out of reach due to the price tags. Although, the benefit from shopping from a sustainable fashion brand is the clothes last longer as they are well manufactured.
However, as mental health becomes more of a cultural norm, work environments and businesses are considering these effects and monitoring their behaviour in adherence to employees and customers. To take steps forward more businesses need to be culturally aware and take action by producing sustainable clothing to benefit both the environment and customers. By doing so, they can build a strong customer base and positive news coverage as consumers love to promote brands who are environmentally friendly.
"We are seeing more and more people talking about their mental health, which is very positive." - Carolyn Mair, fashion psychologist
Fashion is a known cause of mental health and brands need to take account of their actions and set new targets to better the well-being of their consumers. Social media holds too great a power over society's opinions and we need to act now to avoid future generations suffering the same pressures. As a society, we can slow down the rapid increase in mental health problems, and concentrate on fixing these issues, not ignoring them.