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​how does being a young fashion designer affect your mental health?

A selection of young London designers running their own labels, open up (anonymously) about how the stress of being a designer impacts on their mental health.

by i-D Staff
|
19 May 2016, 10:45pm

"Working in fashion doesn't make me depressed. I've always used my creativity to pull myself out of tough times so it's great that I get to do what I love for a job. This is really one of the happiest times for me. Sometimes however, I know that I use this as a distraction from dealing with problems in my personal or family life. It's a form of escapism, but without that, I think I would feel down a lot more."

"I love doing fun projects and don't mind doing production, but I suffer from patches of depression that make everything weird. Sometimes it will be because of work but it's usually personal, life stuff. I think some people's anxiety is partly due to the fact fashion isn't taken that seriously as an artform or job, and it can actually make people feel guilty about doing it. I know I have to create stuff, I feel down if I don't. I realised that only recently. I go days without drawing or making, just doing emails, and I end up feeling strange and not realising why."

"I think I was most healthy in body and mind when I graduated -- not sure if that is just an age thing -- but I think having your own label definitely drains you. It's a negative and a positive. It's good to care about something so much that it takes over your life but on the other hand, that isn't majorly healthy. Weirdly I am most happy after a show or a project, so it feels like it's a bit of an abusive addiction sometimes, but I think that most things you really care about are."

"I wouldn't say I get depressed because of fashion, but the gruelling schedule fucks me up big time! We work on a collection and present it and that is everything for that moment, but the minute it's over, it ceases to exist until it goes into stores in six months time. I feel like I'm juggling three collections at once; there's the one I'm working on, which I'm excited about, the one that's in production, that's not as exciting.... and the old one that's in stores. We are selling stuff to people that immediately feels old, it's hard to be excited about spring/summer 16 because in my mind it's done. I'm producing autumn/winter 16 and working on spring/summer 17, but to the outside world spring/summer 16 is new and fresh. It feels weird trying to be excited about something that for me is in the past when I'm already two seasons ahead.

Add to that putting all the waking hours into each collection for five minutes of catwalk, then travelling to Paris sell it and returning quite empty..... it's like you've given so much and in a moment, it's all gone. But that's also when I'm happiest, when it's scary, when you're presenting yourself to the world and waiting to see if they like it or not. It's almost sadomasochistic.... I enjoy the fear.

Fuck it, yeah... it does make me depressed, because I'm never going to be content with what I do... always working two seasons ahead... the present is a moment of old work that you know could be better."

"The most serious moment of depression I had was during my first solo show in autumn/winter 15, hence why the collection was super dark and suicidal. I felt depressed because I felt disposable. Yes, we have creative control but every season we are judged by stores and press. You never know the result and not knowing is scary.

I am actually quite happy now designing for myself, not for stores or press. I guess being a designer, everything is pending on others and you are not in control. If people around me fuck up their jobs, my head is on the chopping board. At the end of the day, I am the brand. So interns, factory, my team, sometimes I feel like I am working for them instead of the other way around."

"Well I wouldn't say I get super depressed but I do get down about money. Everything costs loads and often stores don't pay their invoices on time. It's a real struggle. Also when things don't go as you'd like them to and you've not not got the budget to try all the options. It can be mega frustrating. Then sometimes something really nice happens and it makes up for all the bad stuff. I'm most happy when things do go as I'd planned them to, and when you see the collection in your dream store or on your dream person - that's quite an epic feeling!

Without the support of Fashion East, I think it would have been much harder! It's an amazing platform and really, really helped promote the label in the beginning. I'd probably have given up by now, for sure, if it were two years down the line, and I still had no stockists or anything like, I don't have a giant pot of gold, I couldn't drag it out."

"I don't take it too seriously, of course it's my life, but it's still only clothes, I'm not a surgeon. I think I'm a pretty creative thinker anyway so if I didn't do this I would soon be inspired to work on something else. I would still end up making things; I like making shit and wouldn't want to work on a computer all day.

The actual production side of the business is the hardest for me. The best is knowing that people buy my clothes and feel good about themselves wearing them, that's a nice thought. I've had boys come up and tell me that they have a pair of my joggers and they're the best thing they own and they feel confident in them, it's a good feeling.

One of the things I hate is that you have to immediately reply to an email, even if you don't have an answer. You have to tell them you'll get back to them with another email. Fuck emails."

"I'd be depressed if I had to work a 9 to 5 doing something random. Fashion is hard work, and stressful but I'm happier at work, because I can focus on that and don't have to think about the stuff that actually stresses me out."

"I'm extremely lucky as by nature I'm a very positive, happy person. It takes a lot to get me down but my depression is usually set off through exhaustion and utter frustration. When you are a designer you shoulder so much responsibility for your brand, whether that's your own or one you work for. There's sales and your company's bottom line to consider, there's the press, there's the public, who can be very 'open' with their opinions. It's not us sitting in an ivory tower doing pretty sketches on a day to day basis. Production, running costs the sheer intensity of the fashion calendar (come June, Sid and I will have done four full catwalk shows and four collections in five months with a team that comprises of four people) all adds to a very real mental pressure. Sid and I are also still processing the passing of someone incredibly dear to us. Life plus a punishing schedule and running a business is seriously tough even though other people may think 'it's only clothes' or 'you're a stylist with a 24K following on Instagram posting pictures of Bella Hadid on a beach, you aren't fighting a war or doing brain surgery.' I've never felt guilty by the possible or perceived frivolity of what I do.

I wouldn't have the passion I do for the label if it didn't make me happy. Other than that hanging with my father and my friends always makes me feel good. We're very fortunate to have this huge network of support for what we do.

I'm very laid back. I worked for other designers so the pressure was less than on the figurehead, the named designer, as it were. And now it's ours, we could take everything more personally (that's especially true when it comes to social media trolls), but we try to take comments on board and then shrug it off and move on."

"I could definitely tell when you were depressed. I knew that you would be beyond stressed in the month leading up to the collection. I think in that period there was always some crisis that threatened to negatively affect the end result of the collection in a big way. I felt like you were happiest after you came back from Paris and had a break and at the end of that period when you were coming up with ideas for the new collection and were inspired. It meant you could do things and change things and there were new possibilities. When you can't see a way out, it makes you feel like shit."

"Yeah I have my ups and downs, and those close to me know that, including my brilliant and supportive friends who don't work in fashion. When I'm down I try not to let it be something that interns and people working with me are too aware of, because I don't want my lows to bring the studio vibes and motivation down. I don't want it leading to other people doubting what I, or we as a team, are capable of.

It's hard to pin point when I'm happiest. Lots of things make me very happy. I think the hard work and lack of sleep and relaxation can make me quite emotional, so if life's feeling tough (stress, pressure to deliver, finances, relationships) then it can tip me towards feeling quite down and having moments of quite low self esteem. Talking definitely helps, you realise how fragile so many of us are behind our work, brands and resilience." 

This week, Mental Health Awareness Week takes place in the UK, in an effort to increase the conversation around the much neglected subject. To coincide, all week i-D.co will share voices from the fashion industry and beyond, discussing their thoughts, feelings and experiences of suffering from mental health issues.