Fashion and Mental Health

Fashion and mental health


Fashion and mental health have had a troubled history. Starting in the 1960s, gay pride-inspired labels began to push the boundaries of fashionable clothing, namely, strapless bras. But the revolution was short-lived.

In 1997, Avril Lavigne released "I'm with You," a breakup anthem featuring the line, "I'll lose weight for you." The No. 1 single boosted sales of athletic clothing, including brassieres and T-shirts. Mental health advocates are at the forefront of using fashion to create awareness and reduce stigma. But a lot of times, they are fighting a losing battle in the marketplace.

Fashion Designers and mental Health

In 2002, Rachel Sussman, the co-founder and president of fashion house and beauty line Fred Segal, helped create the AIDS/LifeCycle charity ride for the agency 100 Years Young. The road rally, which has become an annual cycling event for cycling enthusiasts, typically raises millions of dollars for AIDS research, as well as peer-to-peer education programs and a critical-care medicine pool for AIDS-related patients. But Sussman says that too often fashion cannot outrun its own past. She says, "If I'm ever up against my own work that I put together, I feel a little scared. If I were at Fred Segal today, I'd be changing the bandanas." Sussman continues, "In a time of revolution, it's hard to remember that what we are really creating is to protect our jobs. I just have to remind myself that this is not our revolution. This is our business and our jobs."

Many labels now are marketing new lines with a much more conscious intent. One of the first and most famous of these was the Kate Spade line (Spade, who died in June, was 55.) The brand has been the subject of a recent retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, as well as the publication of a book. (In her latest project, Spade was working on a book for Shutterfly about the personal journals she wrote over the years.) And it's not only women who are showing solidarity with mental health. Mattel has made it its brand objective to change the conversation on teen mental health. The toy manufacturer launched a #IShapeMyWorld campaign in early September, which aims to highlight the importance of optimism in everyone's lives. In addition, eBay is partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, based in San Rafael, Calif., on a number of initiatives, including the creation of a tool to make it easier for people to seek treatment for a mental illness. (Watch the video below to see how it works.)

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the SLD newsletter

Michael Dominguez, global brand president of Kids and Family at eBay, says mental illness is a topic that the company has felt passionate about tackling for some time. He says, "For the longest time, mental health has been an afterthought, which really drove our purpose in this. We don't want to get into the stigma of talking about your mental health. We don't want to talk about it until it becomes a health problem. And we have been trying to help people recognize that it is a problem."

When the company started the #IShapeMyWorld campaign, Dominguez said, it found that while many people were eager to talk about their own mental health struggles, there was a dearth of information about what people can do to help others who are suffering.

To help solve this gap, eBay worked with experts on the topic, and partnered with nonprofits like NAMI to produce tools that help kids and families spot warning signs of mental health issues. One of the tools, a short film that shows a young girl's reaction to her friend's disappearance, has been viewed by over 1 million viewers. And, when the platform launched on the NAMI website, eBay pledged to donate $1 for every action taken to NAMI from users in the U.S. and Canada, and $2 for every action taken from users worldwide. So far, the campaign has raised over $27,000.

Leave a comment