THE FASHION WORLD IS VIEWED AS GLAM AND GLORY WITH MUCH FAME. WORLD KNOWN ARTISTS, CELEBRITIES AND BLOGGERS ATTENDS FAMOUS FASHION SHOWS EVERY OTHER SEASON FROM GUCCI TO DIOR AND TAKES A GLIMPSE OF THE COLLECTION TO EITHER BE LOVED OR HATED. WE DON'T TALK ABOUT THE HARD-WORK AND DEDICATION TOWARDS THE GARMENTS, TOWARDS THE CONCEPT OR TRY TO UNDERSTAND THE DESIGNER. WE DON'T KNOW THE STRUGGLES, PAIN OR SLEEPLESS NIGHTS. DO WE REALLY KNOW FASHION AT ALL?
This is a hot topic and it does hit home. For those outside the industry and looking in, you might find it hard to believe the world of fashion can take a toll on your health. One in six adults have experienced CMD (common mental disorder) such as anxiety or depression nearly every week according to the mental health foundation and it shows this can not be ignored. The question is, why are we not talking about mental health in the fashion industry? Is there any support in the fashion world at all?
The suicide of 40-year old British designer Alexander Mcqueen in 2010 was definitely a surprise which led to unveiling his history of anxiety, insomnia and depression. I think many of us can all agree, his work was and is exquisite. Mcqueen was a workaholic and a perfectionist and always felt the pressure of society and high demands.
"Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment"
What are we doing about it? One of five students suffer from anxiety or depression which is a form of CMD. I happened to be one of them. I studied fashion and fashion business with an open mind and ready to take on anything but I had no clue how much this would consume every ounce of me. We was told to limit our sleeping and spend every moment in your work because fashion is you and there is no rest in fashion. I almost felt guilty for resting and not spending every second of the day on my work. I contemplated a lot throughout my studies and had thoughts like"why am I doing this" or "I'm not good enough" and because the stress was overwhelming, I indulged in caffeine and would make regular visits to my local Starbucks because it was a great gate away. I would not be surprised if there are strings of my hair sewn within the garments because of how much I picked on it. Hundreds of hours goes into pattern making, researching trends and creating 'toiles' to make the perfect fit for garments and I worked from 10am - 7pm nearly everyday whilst balancing a part time job.
In my second year, I had to undertake an internship as part of my assignment and I was grateful Harvey Nichols took me under their wing. Throughout that year, I had to balance attending lectures three times a week whilst going London for my internship twice a week and working at a part-time job. That is over 300 hours of pure focus on fashion. Fashion is not easy. Time is not on your side, expectations are high and you have to run to the finish line, not jog. The harsh critics does not help either. I had tutors telling me "this is bad, change it" but not explaining how to improve your work is draining. We would be told in lecturers "this is how the fashion world is" and we are suppose to act as if this is normal behaviour and just be okay with it. I am not okay with it. If students are taught this is normal and to work excruciating hours, imagine how professional designers must feel.
My anxiety and depression was creeping back slowly and I started to feel hopeless until I had a realisation. I based one of my university projects on mental-wellbeing to express the importance of relaxing the mind. I researched the art or origami and ancient Japanese wrapping therapy to gain insight and portray this into my designs. Overall, I do think this was the project I enjoyed the most because I knew what I was doing and weight of pressure was starting to weigh down just a bit. I think we need to express the importance of mental health and if not by words, at least through our clothes.
(I was inspired by the ancient Japanese wrapping therapy and origami)
There are upsides to studying fashion. I learnt how to sew garments, pattern cutting and creating design portfolios which I am proud of. I learnt how to write reports and research all kinds of things and know this is the path I want to go towards. The pressure of wanting to be the best sometimes gets best of me but it is about finding the right balance. I had learnt that I am not as good as creating garments but I have a steady business mind and ready to take on the industry. I still love fashion very much and everything I was taught, the good and bad has overall made me a better version of myself today.
(Freedom Within Expression)
"There is a need to be the best, and sometimes the best can bring out the worst in us"
There is one thing society needs to realise and how overworked, anxious or depressed these designers may be. I understand why they might smoke, drink and do anything to just take their mind off the stress. There is a need to be the best, and sometimes the best can bring out the worst in us. Fashion culture as a whole needs to stop the unrealistic expectations and see what it causes. Competition is good but working in an unhealthy environment where everyone is against each other is horrible and we need to know the difference.
And that's the chai for today.
To view my mental-wellbeing project in depth, click on the link below: https://www.nishratislam.co.uk/ss19-adidas-project