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  • Writer's picturekirstiewright

Your guide to the Fashion industry and Mental Health

Please note that this article covers topics that some people may find distressing.

The fashion industry is an industry that has been around for many centuries. It is an industry that shapes all our lives, whether we work in the fashion industry or not. We all see images of people in the latest trends, particularly with the advent of social media. These images impact our view of what we think ‘beauty’ is.

mental health fashion industry

As the impact of the fashion industry is so huge let’s look at how the fashion industry impacts everyone’s mental health.  We will also look at how the fashion industry impacts the mental health of those who work in it.

In recent years there has been more discussion on how the fashion industry impacts mental health, from the models the industry uses to the norms it portrays and how this can impact mental health. It is now well documented that although the impact that the fashion industry has can be extremely positive it can also have a negative impact.

First let’s start with the positive and how fashion can positively impact mental health for those inside the fashion industry as well as those outside of it.

1: Self-expression. The first positive impact of the fashion industry on mental health is that it allows people to have a sense of self expression. It can help boost self-confidence and help people express themselves. There is a joy that can come from creating an outfit that you feel comfortable in.

2: Community. Fashion has the power to bring likeminded people together. The fashion industry allows for the expression of cultural identity. Sharing similar clothing to that of others can build a sense of community. This is part of the reason why uniforms were created. Fashion has also been used to bring likeminded people together for causes of activism. A sense of community has been found to be a key factor in improving mental health.

3: Therapeutic. The fashion industry can be therapeutic by allowing people to express their creativity through fashion. Creativity has been found to be highly therapeutic. Activities linked to fashion including sewing can promote being in the moment which can be highly therapeutic. The fashion industry can also help with forming your sense of identity by allowing you to think about what looks fit with you. Feeling comfortable in an outfit can boost self-esteem.

mental health fashion


The negative impact the fashion industry can have on mental health.

1: Unrealistic body image and standards. The fashion industry often promotes a certain look as beautiful. This look is often unrealistic to obtain and there is a high use of filters and photoshop in images. The pressure these standards have on people can lead to low body confidence and low self-esteem.

2: Comparison. The fashion industry can create a norm to compare yourself too. This can lead people to compare themselves to others which can have a negative impact on mental health. The images that the fashion industry often presents is carefully curated and therefore when we compare ourselves, we can draw negative conclusions about ourselves which can have a negative impact on self esteem and mental health.

3: Financial impact. The fashion industry changes the fashion frequently which can put pressure on people to spend money to keep up with the ideal. This can have a negative impact on mental health and peoples finances.

mental health fashion industry


What about the mental health of people working in the fashion industry?

If we know that fashion can impact the mental health of everyone what about the people that work in the industry? We know that the fashion industry is vast and can span many different types of jobs including models, designers, production managers, patternmakers, buyers, merchandisers, marketing, fashion journalism., photography, ecommerce, events and many more. As we can’t go in depth about all the different roles I will talk very generally about how the fashion industry can impact mental health for those who work in the industry. People working in the fashion industry have been found to be three times more likely to experience mental health difficulties than the general population.


There have also been a series of high-profile deaths by suicide including Alexander Mcqueen. L’Wren Scott and Kate Spade in the industry which demonstrates that there needs to be an improvement of mental health in the fashion industry. There have been a number of individuals in the industry who have also discussed the negative impact the industry has had on their mental health. See here for details. Lets take a look at factors that can negatively impact the mental health of those in the industry.

fashion industry mental health

Factors that impact the mental health of those who work in the fashion industry:

High stress environments

The fashion industry strives for perfectionism, is focused on getting the new next big thing and is very faced paced. This can impact those who work in the fashion industry as the need to come up with the next best thing can be relentless. To add to the stressors in the industry much of the work in this industry is freelance which comes with its own challenges including working in isolation and no HR. For more details of how freelance work can impact mental health click here.

Body image

Unrealistic body image standards also impact people who work in the industry. There are reports of models having to conform to certain sizes to keep their jobs so it is no surprise that the prevalence of eating disorders has been found to be high in the fashion industry.

High standards

The fashion industry is known for its pursuit of perfectionism. As anyone knows no one can be perfect at all times. This unrealistic standard can put undue pressure on those working in the fashion industry. When we inevitably don’t meet these standards as no-one can be perfect at all times we may feel like we’ve failed and this can increase the risk of mental health difficulties.

mental health fashion industry


How we can change things:

Making it the norm to talk about mental health difficulties.

Talking about mental health difficulties starts to normalise that its common to experience mental health difficulties and encourages people to seek help. Talking about mental health difficulties in the fashion industry can take away some of the stigma.


Promoting diversity in body images

The fashion industry often plays a big role in what society views as beautiful. By starting to diversify the body images it promotes the industry can start to promote a more positive body image.


Raising awareness

Employers raising awareness of mental health difficulties will enable colleagues to spot mental health difficulties and signpost people to gain support if needed. Training managers on how to discuss mental health difficulties with employees will help discussion about mental health to take place and ensure people feel more supported. Employers offering mental health support support to both paid employees and those who work freelance will ensure people working in the fashion industry have timely access to mental health support.

mental health film industry



Fashion colleges educating people on how the industry can impact mental health and how they can manage their mental health and start to change the industry when they get into positions of power will start to change mental health in the fashion industry.

Encouraging work/life balance

Encouraging employers and employees to think about work/life balance and work breaks into schedules.

The pursuit of perfectionism

The pursuit of perfectionism can actually kill creativity and negatively impact the end product and peoples mental health. The threat of not being perfect can put people into threat mode where you are so focused on avoiding criticism and failure that your focus becomes avoidance of failure instead of creating your best work which can negatively impact creativity. See this article for more details.

mental health fashion

Educating people on why improving mental health within the industry will benefit everyone and how to encourage a supportive environment will help improve both output and peoples wellbeing.

The impact the fashion industry has on mental health is complex and impacts people who work in the industry and those outside of the industry. There are both good and negative impacts and by making small changes we can reduce the negative impact that the fashion industry has on mental health. If you would like more support on how your organisation can improve mental health in the fashion industry do not hesitate to contact us. We also offer one to one therapy with qualified therapists who understand the fashion industry.

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