Fashion designers are increasingly making headlines for reasons other than their clothes. With the deaths of L’Wren Scott and Alexander McQueen, as well as the breakdown of John Galliano, many are beginning to ask if the fashion industry is simply asking too much from these creative minds.
Fashion designers today are looked up to for their fame, wealth and luxurious lifestyle. However, behind this glossy facade there appears to be a darker side to the fashion industry, one which is contrasted to the sleek magazine covers which portray it to be glamorous, glitzy and enviable. The reality of the fashion industry is that it is high pressure, fast moving and not for the faint hearted. Competition is fierce to produce more innovative and creative collections yet at the same be commercial and relevant. There are now sub collections such as handbags, shoes and cosmetics which have been introduced by fashion bosses to the majority of major brands in order to maximise profits and create more revenue. Globalisation and digitalisation has added a tremendous amount of pressure on not only the creative field but everyone in the fashion industry. Alongside two fashion weeks per year this high pressure and demanding environment has left many designers burnt out and overwhelmed.
In recent years there have been cases of designers turning to substance abuse to deal with this highly pressurised environment. John Galliano, former creative director of Dior, suffered a very public breakdown in 2011. Two years later he revealed to Vanity Fair that it was partly due to the pressures of the industry and his incredible workload (he was designing 32 collections a year) which led him down the path of substance abuse. Arguably working in the industry does not cause designer’s personal problems – but it does nothing to kerb them either.
The fashion industry is one which is capital intensive. The reports surrounding L’Wren Scott’s death honed in on the financial situation of her business. On the surface Scott’s business appeared to be thriving, her designs frequently worn on the red carpet by the likes of Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker, and she had just brought out a collection with Banana Republic. However since Scott’s death reports have suggested that she was millions in debt highlighting the importance of being commercial. In today’s fickle industry high losses are difficult to take and now more than ever there is an emphasis on designers being financially savvy as well as artists and creative minds. Many fashion courses today are making it compulsory to study business and financial accounting alongside design to make the graduates well equipped to deal with the industry.
The fashion industry is an intriguing, competitive and fickle place. On the one hand it is glamorous, rewarding and fulfilling. Yet there appears to be a darker side to this catwalk glamour, designers are being forced to work faster and harder than they ever have before leading to many high profile designers to spiral out of control. Sometimes we just have to ask ourselves, is the quest for the next seasons collection really worth the sacrifices?