Fashion designers are increasingly making the headlines of late for reasons other than their clothes. Does the industry simply inflict too much pressure on these creative minds?
Fashion designers today are envied for their fame, fortune and luxurious lifestyles. However, there is a dark and far more disturbing side to the industry juxtaposed with the glitz and glamour of glossy magazine covers. With the competition growing fierce to produce an exclusive and innovative collection every season, there is ever-increasing pressure. As well as two fashion weeks per year, there are now couture, resort and other sub-collections that fashion bosses have introduced in order to maximise their profits. The overwhelming and demanding environment (we saw a glimpse of it in The Devil Wears Prada) has left many designers mentally and physically drained. Indeed, a sad trend has seen many develop severe mental health issues as a result of their high workload. Heavy alcohol and drug use both assists creativity and energy, but can also lead to other health problems; all in pursuit of the ultimate next season trend.
John Galliano, former creative director for Dior, faced a severe public breakdown in 2011. Two years later he revealed to Vanity Fair that as the collections increased he became a slave to his career, and this led him astray down a path of alcohol addiction. He confirmed that he did not drink to fuel his creativity, but to help him unwind and sleep after the shows. Slowly it became more frequent, and the pills soon joined in order to prevent his unstable body from shaking and to cure his sleepless nights. “What had started off as self-expression turned into a mask”, as his workaholic lifestyle took over.
Renowned designer Alexander McQueen also felt similar pressures from the industry to repeatedly and creatively produce. The fashion world was left grieving his design genius when he committed suicide in 2010. With phenomenal, boundary-breaking shows, McQueen began to struggle with the demands of his own label, since this was the only aspect of his life where he allegedly felt like he was successful. He was also mourning the suicide of his good friend and mentor, fashion journalist Isabella Blow, in 2007. McQueen developed depression himself, and after a number of previous attempts he, too, committed suicide. Balmain’s former creative director, Christophe Decarnin, also suffered from depression. He was admitted to a mental hospital in 2011 due to depression and an anxiety attack whilst preparing for Paris Fashion Week.
Many other recognised designers have also suffered from similar issues caused by their work: Coco Chanel had a serious opium habit, Yves Saint Laurent went through a dark period of depression which caused substance abuse and Marc Jacob’s addiction meant he had to be admitted to rehab. The fashion world’s stringent demands have been responsible for increased depression, anxiety and insomnia among talented and high-profile designers. However, such health problems in the industry rarely receive publicity. Indeed, it seems like such substance abuse is the only survival kit for reaching the top of the industry’s ladder.