As much as it’s loved, the fashion industry is known for its extremely stressful work environment. “A million girls would kill for this job” is one of the infamously memorable quotes in the most well-known fashion movie, The Devil Wears Prada, and sadly, it’s true.
Fashion is a competitive market. Many people are attracted to the glamour and fantasy that only fashion can create through the everyday style of individuals. In general, the creative industries have been known for a number of notorious workplace characteristics: labor-intensive processes with low wages, constant overtime work, etc. While the entire fashion industry is endlessly seeking ways to change strategies and platforms, the extremely stressful workplace still remains the same and is likely to stay unchanged for fashion professionals.
Image Credit: The Devil Wears Prada
This year, at the beginning of June, iconic American fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead after committing suicide in her New York apartment. The tragedy shocked everyone in the industry and fashionistas around the world. Later, the statement released by Andy Spade, Kate Spade’s husband, to The New York Times revealed the cause of the heartbreaking suicide:
“This is the truth. Anything else that is out there right now is false. She was actively seeking help for depression and anxiety over the last 5 years, seeing a doctor on a regular basis and taking medication for both depression and anxiety. There was no substance or alcohol abuse. There were no business problems.”
Spade’s death was not an incident that suddenly took place, as the symptoms of her mental illnesses of depression and anxiety had been cueing others to help.
Unfortunately, the subject of mental health hardly come to the forefront of the fashion industry. Products of the fashion industry, including clothing, accessories, magazines, campaigns, and more, are likely to reflect and radiate positively appealing sentiments because they’re all commodities that need to be sold to the consumer. What this means is that anything that is produced within the fashion industry is unlikely to show the real issues of mental health, such as depression or anxiety, no matter how many people experience these issues in the industry. Designers are not going to make clothes that make their consumers feel cheerless and the business professionals will not push low-selling strategies. Products of fashion are sold when consumers can agree, find values and feel content with what they see, not when the depressed state of mind is explicitly illustrated.
Another reason why mental health is not highlighted as much as it should be in fashion may be because the senior-level managers in all sectors within the industry are aware of the fact that there are so many people who want the job. The challenges that these managers have experienced in the past have been the lingering results of the extremely fast-paced environment of fashion. No matter how much people are stressed out, the fashion industry knows that there are lots of people who will “kill for this job”, and are likely just considered not fit for the industry if they cannot endure the mental pressure.
While many systems and cycles within the fashion industry have significantly improved over time, such mindset and mental practice within the workplace remain the same. Appreciation of every talent, consideration of mental stability of the people that you work with should be something that we talk about more often.
Cover Image Credit: [Costanza Milano for BoF]