Is the fashion industry making us addicts?
A few days ago, I came across an article titled 'Does Fashion Have A Mental Health Problem?' This got me thinking – can strong parallels actually be drawn between the fashion industry and our mental health? As a consumer, how has this art form changed my own psychological state? Am I an addict?
I'm a millennial – I try as best as I can, to be a part of everyday culture. The rise of social media, with abundant information, helps. Now, I don't think I'm over active online, but I do find myself, several times a day, wondering if my thoughts are actually my own, or just an opinion formed from the constant influx of indiscriminate information I receive daily. A huge part of my time online is spent on fashion sites. Some of my favourites include perniaspopupshop.com, highheelconfidential.com, or following the Instagram pages of Shivan & Narresh, Masaba Gupta or Outhouse and Valliyan jewellery. These people, IMHO, truly create magic. And the constant exposure to this 'magic' fuels an immense (sometimes psychotic) desire in me, to attain these lustful objects. I admit, at times I feel a certain pressure to “Keep up with the Joneses.” But since I call Delhi home, it's more like “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” where you cant swing a Birkin bag without knocking over ten girls in Louboutins, which are as common as Bata chappals in my neck of the woods.
Me and Pernia Qureshi, show off Shivan and Narresh for Swarovski earrings
It may seem that this current wave of fashion obsession, is a product of the social media reign today, but interestingly, I recall this pressure beginning in my twenties. Sometime around 2005, before social media consumed my life, I would spend most hours of my day at department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman and Selfridges abroad, and of course later, the one and only Emporio Mall (New Delhi’s premium designer mall) back home. At that time, yes, I could tell you I was a girl possessed. While at college in London and New York, I would spend large sums of my allowance on the shoe sales at Harrods, and the dress department of Bloomingdales. I would sometimes fall short on necessities such as school supplies, and be forced to go through a very insecure few days, till I could beg and convince my parents to give me my next month’s allowance early. I would spend one-too-many times on the “emergency” credit card justifying that a sale at Barney’s New York was indeed, an emergency. I would often realise that I had so many outfits and accessories, and no appropriate occasions to even wear all of them. At that point, the mentality was just one of hoarding.
My shoe fetish dream come true!
Shopping then, wasn't about identifying beautiful objects and special acquisitions. It was about mindlessly grabbing whatever was trending, or that my best friend had in another colour (She has the Louis Vuitton Papillon in the cherry blossoms, so I had to get it in the multi-coloured monogram). Day and night I would be consumed by how desperately I wanted those Jimmy Choos or when I could covet that Sabyasachi outfit for an upcoming wedding. Of course, when the plan was to pick up just one outfit, I would end up totally blowing my budget and adding to my already overstuffed closets, with items I just “kinda” liked. I had an addiction to shopping. Addictions aren't healthy.
I returned home, to India, in my mid-twenties. My addiction followed. I started working as a lifestyle journalist for one of India’s premier society magazines, where I had access to all the fashion shows, and mingled constantly with designers and socialites. As you can imagine, this did not help my addiction, and I literally consumed and consumed, just for the sake of consumption. But after a while, I noticed something. Because I was constantly around it, I became somewhat desensitized to it.
Free access to fashion shows and designers worsened my addiction
I started viewing the latest collections more from a journalistic point of view, and understanding the creativity behind each brand story, as a true admirer. I learned I could appreciate the masterpieces without NEEDING to possess ALL of them. My insatiable thirst for purchasing gradually subsided, and I understood, my shopping addiction had been more a by-product of boredom and an idle mind. Boredom is the catalyst for many an addiction.
Fan girl moment with Naeem Khan at his NYC studio
Don’t get me wrong; I’m still a die-hard fan of this fascinating fashion industry. I'm in awe of all creative fields for that matter. I still very much enjoy my shopping indulgences and flock with the herd, to Lakme and Amazon India fashion weeks. I’ve seen this world up close and personally, and I realise not all shopping is addiction. Some people truly revere and savour this art; true collectors and trendsetters find this to be the most important sense of self-expression. I came to the conclusion, that there is nothing wrong with indulging in fashion, as long as the attitude towards it is healthy.
Blown away by these unique looks at Fashion week
So do I personally feel that the fashion industry generates mental health issues and patterns of addiction? Not more than any other industry in particular. I have met bankers who have huge addictions to their lifestyles, and I have heard that the drug addiction rate amongst doctors is growing. In fact, the addiction to shopping is more an issue of consumerism in general, than fashion in particular. I started off as a consumer, who consumed fashion for the sake of it – a regular gimme, gimme, gimme girl. I found my weekly 'fixes' or 'hits' when I filled my shopping bags up. And then filled them some more.
With my favourite fashion mafia
I am now, with a little age and a lot less free time on my side, a consumer who consumes it for the art it is. And I feel all the more à la mode for it.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Radha Jetley
Photographs by Radha Jetley