Florian Müller has been an integral part of the Berlin fashion scene for 20 years. Insiders know him in his role as a PR professional and guest manager at Berlin Fashion Week runway shows. In recent years, he has also continued his education, building on his former psychology studies to work psychotherapeutically. He is now bringing these two worlds, that of fashion and that of psychology, together with his new project ‘Mental Health in Fashion’' - an urgently needed and long overdue idea. After all, working environments like those portrayed in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ have been around in the fashion industry for a long time. And things are only changing slowly.
Mr. Müller, what prompted you to launch your initiative for mental health in the fashion industry??
My initiative “Mental Health in Fashion” was born out of the need to address the often overlooked challenges of mental health. In my twenty years in the fashion industry, I have found that the pressure to meet standards and expectations often leads to emotional stress. The constant search for perfection, competition and uncertainty in this industry can have a significant impact on wellbeing.
I have also observed a high prevalence of mental illness, which is either brought into the industry by people or arises due to the prevailing mindset and work structures.
Similarly, signals are sometimes sent to the public that can have a negative impact on the mental health of the recipients, for example in the form of eating disorders. Despite being aware of other biological and psychosocial risk factors outside the fashion industry that favour illness, I generally see too little awareness of this issue in my profession. I look at the entire supply chain and therefore speak of a complex and far-reaching framework of possible health problems in different contexts.
In my work environment, it is important for me to promote mental health awareness and to reduce the stigma around mental health issues. A space is needed for people in the fashion industry where they can find support without feeling like they are showing weakness.
Is the fashion industry a particularly unhealthy industry?
The fashion industry is often caught between its external glamour and the internal challenges that can have an impact on the mental health of people in the industry. From the outside, the fashion industry is often associated with glamour, creativity and perfection. The public focus is on the stunning fashion shows, creative designs and dazzling personalities that characterise the industry. This image can lead to the real, often stressful aspects of the fashion business being overlooked or underestimated.
Which ones are these?
Internally, many people in the fashion industry experience considerable strain, which can have a negative impact on their mental health. The constant competition, high expectations, job insecurity and demands on physical aesthetics can lead to stress, anxiety and other mental health challenges. The pressure to always be perfect and in line with often unrealistic standards can lead to an unhealthy work environment. I would even argue that the glamour of the beautiful world blinds even those within the industry and prevents them from recognising problems.
Another topic covered is the unhealthy consumption of fashion, which is also the cause of various problems in the area of sustainability and is therefore of particular relevance. Decisions to buy clothes can not only have an impact on our own mental health, but also on the working conditions and living conditions of people at the other end of the supply chain. In addition to well-known challenges such as overproduction, mountains of clothes, environmental pollution and a waste of resources, this unhealthy consumption is at the centre of sustainability considerations. A factory worker, for example, could develop an increased risk of depression and anxiety disorders due to catastrophic working conditions and numerous existential problems.
What do you hope to achieve with the campaign?
My initiative for mental health in the fashion industry aims to address this imbalance between public perception and internal realities. It is important to encourage the industry to talk openly about mental health. I want to create support mechanisms and raise awareness that anyone, regardless of position or prominence, can face mental health challenges. By encouraging this openness, we are helping to break down the stigma and create a healthier and more supportive environment in the fashion industry.
My aim is also to communicate concrete steps that everyone can integrate into their daily lives to promote their own wellbeing, while at the same time breaking down unhealthy structures in the fashion industry. In the long term, I hope that the campaign will contribute to a positive change in the culture of the fashion industry to create an environment that places more value on the quality of life of the people who work in this industry. Furthermore, I want the campaign to bring about positive change not only within the fashion industry, but also beyond, by making positive use of the signaling effect of fashion and thus contributing to raising society's awareness of mental illness.
What do concrete steps look like? What do you do yourself, for example?
It is important for me to note that mental health is an individual journey and there is no universal solution. This challenge requires a multi-layered approach that encompasses both personal practices and structural changes.
But if you have the opportunity, even small, regular routines can have a positive impact on your mental health and contribute to a lasting sense of well-being. One of my key practices is therefore regular self-reflection. This enables me to consciously pay attention to my emotions and stressors and develop strategies to deal with them. This practice is not only important to me, but also a central part of my teaching approach. In my courses, I encourage students to promote their own mental health through reflection and show how this can be integrated into the context of sustainable business practices.
The integration of exercise into everyday life also plays a key role. Physical activity has been proven to have positive effects on mental health. Both in my personal life and in my teaching, I emphasise the importance of regular exercise as a preventative measure.
Another important aspect is the cultivation of social relationships. Both privately and in the teaching environment, I create spaces for sharing to foster a supportive community. This community building is integral to my curriculum as it allows for emotional support and sharing of challenges.
At the same time, I strive for structural change. Through my involvement in schools and universities, I try to raise awareness of mental health and develop innovative teaching concepts. One example of this is the “Sustainable Business Psychology and Leadership” course, which aims to give my students an understanding of the link between psychology, sustainable business management and leadership skills.
The integration of my campaign into the education sector is of vital relevance and I am working to further develop this initiative. By combining personal practices and breaking down unhealthy structures, I hope to make a comprehensive contribution to promoting mental health, both for myself and for the communities I reach through my teaching.
What is next?
With my ‘Mental Health in Fashion’ campaign, I want to help tackle structural problems. We need a standard in the work context that takes the psychopathological aspect into account. There are regulations on how office chairs must be ergonomically designed to prevent back problems. Why don't we have a set of rules on how to deal positively with the human psyche? That's exactly what I'm working on right now.
I am currently developing a training concept for a fashion brand in which I want to teach managers how to behave appropriately in specific situations. Many people know what to do in case of a physical accident at work, a cut for example. But do I also know how to help someone with a panic disorder at work or how I should behave if someone in my office has an acute psychosis? Many people don't even know who to call in such cases.
In addition to my teaching and lectures at international universities, the campaign will continue to be directly present in the fashion environment. An upcoming panel talk at the Seek fashion trade fair in January and the introduction of the new category “Mental Health in Fashion” as part of the ASVOFF Fashion Film Festival by Diane Pernet in Paris are projects that count towards this.
This article was originally published on http://FashionUnited.de . Edited and translated by Simone Preuss.