In the Shadows of the Industry
At a glance, the fashion industry is a culture that many envy and strive to be a part of. It’s filled with picturesque models who are revered for their unattainable figures and sheer beauty. There is promise of wealth, recognition, and a high class lifestyle, complete with designer apparel and endless opportunities. In many ways, the fashion industry is everything the world sees it for, but there are many dark truths that are rarely spoken of. Mental illness is a subject often left unaddressed. In the fashion industry especially, mental illness is masked by the glamor of the industry, and is often brushed aside. In the United States alone, 1 in 5 people experience mental illness in a given year. Many models, designers, and other members of the industry live with mental illnesses that are hardly spoken of.
The Mayo Clinic characterizes mental illness as an array of conditions that have an effect on a person’s mood, behavior or thinking. Examples include schizophrenia, depression and anorexia. Since 1999, the number of individuals struggling with mental illness has increased by 30%. In the fashion industry, there is an immense amount of pressure to produce creative material, to keep up with trends that are constantly changing, and to maintain countless beauty standards. This leaves members of the industry and those who admire them vulnerable.
The picture painted by the beauty industry has a significant impact on those who are keenly keeping up; particularly with youth who try to replicate the bodies and lifestyles they see. This can increase their risk of eating disorders and depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost 2.2 million adolescents will suffer from bulimia, anorexia or binge eating disorder within their lifetime.
Recently, the renowned designer Kate Spade committed suicide after battling severe depression for several years. Her tragic death further emphasized an insightful thought shared by Lucy Hale and Josh Groban, “depression does not discriminate.” Successful model, TV host and mother Chrissy Tiegen wrote an essay explaining her struggle with post-partum depression, noting that her brave decision to share it with the world was to assure everyone that, “it can happen to anybody, and I don’t want people who have it to feel embarrassed or to feel alone.” Adwoa Aboah, a model most known for her work with Calvin Klein and Dior, recently opened up about her battle with depression and her attempted suicide. She recalls, “When you're that unhappy, it's scary, it's dark and horrible. I didn't know how to tell someone that I was depressed.”
Many members of the fashion industry, and other public figures, actors, and actresses experience mental illness and have courageously shared their stories. The most common misconception people make is equating wealth and success with pure happiness, but there is always more to the story. The beauty and fashion industry has several components and unknown complexities. Portraying fame as perfect creates a fantasy that influences the youth of today. The failure to reveal the difficulties of such a lifestyle makes it harder for people who are a part of that world to speak their truth and ask for help. It is vital that the conversation regarding mental health is emphasized and amplified to the public with the hopes of ensuring no one suffers in silence thinking that they are alone. Awareness and education about various mental illnesses will ultimately not only be beneficial to the fashion industry community but to the public as well.
Artwork by Susannah Price