CW: This article discusses topics surrounding mental health issues and suicide which could be distressing to some readers.
Fashion school and declining mental health
I recently graduated from fashion school after three incredible years. The experience was one of the best decisions I ever made. Although, there were specific pressures along the way which challenged my mental health.
I'm not alone in this, as a study investigating suicide rates amongst occupations found that the fashion industry came seventh, supporting the claim of higher than average mental health issues within the industry.
There are many causes for the fashion industry's alarming statistics, with even people as successful as the late Alexander McQueen battling their struggles behind closed doors. Let's discuss some of the top pressures fashion students face, and most importantly, how you can overcome them.
As fashion students, we are told how vital internships and work experience are if you want to succeed in the fashion industry. As someone from a small town in North Yorkshire who comes from a working-class background, this was something that daunted me.
According to a 2018 survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 43% of internships at for-profit companies are unpaid, making it very difficult for fashion students with minimal income to take on. Unpaid internships are more accessible for students from wealthier backgrounds to obtain as they may have someone else supporting them through the opportunity, creating an unfair advantage amongst students.
Instead of letting financial struggles get in the way of having work experience that could help propel your career, adapt to what you have available and use it to your advantage.
Work from home
One of the main benefits of the pandemic was the increase in remote internships, eliminating the stress of figuring out how you're going to afford to commute to that dream internship in London. It may seem difficult to locate these virtual opportunities, but a great way to start is by looking through your university or on social media.
One's available include Mindless Academy's Digital-Micro Internship, Bright Network's Internship Experience, and Google Garage's Fundamentals of Digital Marketing course. Brands are also adapting to the WFH mindset by offering remote positions you can participate in on a short-term basis.
Create your own experience
And if you can't find a remote internship that is right for you, you can always create your own experience for free.
If your dream is to be a content creator for a fashion brand, why not start up your own Instagram page highlighting your skillset and try to grow a following? If you want to be a fashion podcaster, why not start recording Zoom calls with your friends and set up your own podcast show and measure its success? If you love to write and your goal is to work for a fashion magazine, why not start your own blog and track how many readers are drove to your page?
There is no better way to show initiative to a future employer than creating a successful experience for yourself and measuring the analytics to prove this.
Lack of connections
Something I struggled with whilst attending fashion school was the fact I didn't know anybody high up in the industry; I worried I'd fall behind when looking for a future job as I didn't have that person to help me get my foot in the door.
Most people on my course were either related to someone important or knew someone through somebody else. So, you have to take matters into your own hands and make these crucial connections for yourself.
During my second year of university, I joined the social platform LinkedIn, initially not understanding the need to be active on there, over time, I became familiar with the platform and built up what the site calls 'connections'.
My top tip is to frequently use LinkedIn to post your work, share your opinions on certain topics, and promote yourself. It somewhat creates a digital CV for you, which is a great way to
stand out on the platform.
I would often research my dream jobs on LinkedIn and connect with individuals who are currently working the position I aspire to achieve. From here, I would send them a message to initiate a conversation and start networking. This is a great way to virtually meet people from the industry whilst also understanding what steps you can take to get to where they are.
Imposter Syndrome is something I suffered from during my three years as a fashion student. This was due to constant comparison to others, the fast-paced environment, and the overall questioning of whether my work was good enough.
Impostor syndrome is the idea that you've only succeeded due to luck and not because of your talent or qualifications. An estimated "70% of people experience these impostor feelings at some point in their lives".
So how can we overcome it?
A great way to keep yourself grounded and remind yourself of what you've achieved is by practising mindfulness activities such as positive affirmations.
You may be unsure where to start, so I recommend attending something like the Self Love Stories - Weekly Journaling Workshop, which can help you on your journey to self-love through journaling and meditation. Practising positive methods like this can help beat your imposter syndrome as well as any other issues.
Overcoming the struggle
Don't let the struggles put you off from getting involved in the fashion industry, as it is also an uplifting, creative, and exciting place to be part of. Just remember to adapt to particular problems you may face and use your resilience and talents to push you forward in your own journey.