When I saw this event being advertised I thought I must be dreaming.
Here was something right at the intersection of two of my major interests, fashion and mental health, and it was (in London terms) right on my doorstep!
The one-day conference, organised by iCAAD (International Conference Addiction Associated Disorders) addressed mental health in fashion from a variety of perspectives, and left me pondering how these issues could be explored further.
As an academic, I am all too aware of how prevalent mental health issues are today.
There is a mental health crisis amongst PhD students.
If a PhD researcher has been lucky enough not to have experienced mental illness themselves, they will almost certainly know someone else who has.
Writing up a thesis, in particular, can be the perfect storm for developing mental illness.
It is isolating, stressful, and painstaking.
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It is very easy for a PhD student, particularly in the write up stage, to go prolonged periods without really leaving the house.
This lifestyle plays out in the clothes we wear.
I’m sure many people reading this will relate to the fact that I have cultivated a range of loungewear this year, which is a far cry from the days when my wardrobe was bursting with formal dresses.
It was with this in mind that I approached ‘Voices of Fashion on Mental Health’, held in King’s College London’s Science Gallery on 6th December 2018.
The day began with an introduction from Caryn Franklin MBE, former co-editor of i-D magazine and Professor of Diversity at Kingston school of art, who set the scene for what would be a day of stimulating discussion and thought provoking sessions.
She emphasised the need for diverse perspectives in an industry that can be all too much of an echo chamber at times.
Throughout the day, Caryn reminded us how we must avoid complacency around issues of representation, and advocated for a wider variety of people to be included in the fashion industry.
Following her welcome, Dr Carolyn Mair, author of The Psychology of Fashion, gave a keynote focusing on the specific psychological pressures on those working in creative fields.
Whilst this had a fashion slant, it would also be applicable to many PhD students.
I did not expect to attend a session that felt a little like therapy, but nevertheless that’s the feeling Shahroo Izadi’s workshop on her book, The Kindness Method evoked.
Her practical techniques for behavioural change could be applied to almost any aspect of life, and I would recommend it to anyone who struggles with feelings of guilt and anxiety around their work.
Following this, the afternoon consisted of stimulating panel discussions.
Notable speakers included Anabel Maldonado, Founder of The Psychology of Fashion, and Tamara Cinik, Founder and CEO of Fashion Roundtable.
We finished the day hearing from Sonny Hall and Simran Randhawa, who both spoke about their experiences modelling and how the industry could better protect models.
Like any good event, the day left me wanting more.
I felt there were many areas remaining to be discussed regarding mental health and fashion, and I hope that there are further events examining specific aspects of the industry.
In particular, I would love to see an event that focused specifically on an intersectional approach to mental health and fashion, and the way that these pressures manifest differently for people who are not privileged.
Another attendee, Ashlea Lukshini, asked a pertinent question about the ways in which the fashion industry has historically been complicit in the oppression of people of colour and how that can affect the mental health of minorities working in fashion.
I wish that there had been more time to give that discussion the weight it deserves.
Nevertheless, I would say that the event was stimulating and well-planned, and I sincerely hope that they plan more for the future.
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