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The ups and downs of dressing up and down (part 1)

Ahead of London’s Men’s Fashion Week, CALM Ambassador RKZ asks faces from across the fashion industry why dressing good can make you feel good.

From the early days of London Collections: Men to now, the menswear scene in London has exploded into a flurry of street style and catwalk photographers, models and media running around like headless chickens, trying to cover and covet all of the latest trends. It’s also the first event in a roller coaster month around Europe, which will take the majority of the industry folk from London to Florence to Milan to Paris. Safe to say, it can be a bit of a whirlwind—mostly for good reasons; occasionally for bad.

Earlier in January, CALM collaborated with Topman on The Common Room for LFWM’s first foray into East London, taking over Labour & Wait and in turn giving the fashion industry a much-needed place of solace. Having visited it between shows, it made me realise just how important respite is when you’re on-the-go. But that’s just it. How do you successfully implement good habits that prioritise mental and physical well-being in an industry that is constantly switched on, and constantly has the world’s collective eyes on it?

Calm Ambassador RKZ

I’ve been a part of the fashion industry for around five years professionally. One of the things that initially pulled me into it was the demand of paying attention to detail and always having to look your best. When I dress well, I know I look good because I feel like I can take on the world without breaking a sweat. Subconsciously, I began to realise that it also worked as a coping mechanism on days when I was getting really bad.

When I dress well, I know I look good because I feel like I can take on the world without breaking a sweat. Subconsciously, I began to realise that it also worked as a coping mechanism.

I delved into it a little further for an online interview, in which I mentioned my struggles with depression and how dressing up helped me, “I’d wake up early (mainly because it would be difficult to get out of bed) and took that extra time to think about what I was wearing and how it all worked together – from the glasses down to the shoes. I initially considered it merely a distraction tactic; something I could focus on. But I realised that dressing well gave me a little (and much needed) confidence boost. I’d walk around and I felt like I was doing something important; as if I were going somewhere of prominence even when I had no set destination in mind. Getting compliments ended up being the icing on the cake. It all sounds quite narcissistic, but sometimes that’s what’s necessary for me to feel a little bit better about myself. And that’s perfectly okay.”

Will Field – Writer and Co-Founder of Yuri & Yuri

Having shared the interview on my Instagram, I started speaking to Will Field (@SavileRowJournal)—one of the leading figures on Savile Row—about how rife depression, anxiety and addiction is within menswear. There are hundreds of reasons for this, from personal to financial worries to lifestyle demands to having serious mental health problems from a young age. It prompted Will and I to speak to more people within the wider industry, spanning various sectors, and every single person unsurprisingly had some form of experience with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction or PTSD. An isolated one-off conversation is always beneficial, but to get lots of people together in one place–to share experiences and talk candidly–was something we had to do.

On a sunny morning in central London, I joined photographer Hannah Miles to meet some prominent folks in the city’s fashion industry for proper coffee and proper conversation. “Working in fashion is by far one of the most rewarding industries but it all comes at a cost,” said freelance art director, Chirag Patel (@thepoorhomme). “Expectations are high and as a creative it essentially becomes a 24-hour job. We’re constantly re-inventing the wheel, staying ahead of trends, working on subjective campaigns and strategies, all-the-while trying to balance the bottom line. We begin our careers thriving on this way of working—being especially seduced by the culture, associations and rewards, while in the background, the line between our personal wellbeing and the stresses of our job begins to drastically blur and severely impact our mental health.”

Chirag H Patel – Art Director

Yuri Choi (@yuri_and_yuri), along with the help of Will, recently set up the Savile Row-based label, Yuri & Yuri. Working so closely together in the world’s sartorial capital undoubtedly puts a lot of pressure on your mental and physical well-being. Always working, always having to adjust between meetings and schedules, always on, basically. “Quite often self-care is neglected. Dressing well can be one of many ways to reverse engineer this.” said Will.

Quite often self-care is neglected. Dressing well can be one of many ways to reverse engineer this.

Yuri Choi – Founder, Yuri & Yuri

For photographer Jake Weisz (@JakeLing), the struggles of sexuality and identity proved a pivotal factor in him embracing fashion and finding his style. “When I left high school, I was a big mess of anxiety, confusion and self-doubt. I was in a very dark, self-deprecating place, constantly lost and upset. I remember nights, secretly sneaking out of the house, driving to some fairly secluded spots, and just wandered. For hours. Alone. Trying to make sense of everything going on in my head, and not being able to tell anyone.”

Jake Weisz – Photographer

“Struggling with my sexuality was something that had only hit me in my late teens but continued throughout some pretty defining years of young adulthood. My work as a fashion photographer, studying film at university and working with models, stylists, designers, makeup and hair artists, and other creatives were what introduced me to this whole world of being comfortable and even confident in who I was no matter who or what that meant. Expressing myself through the way I dress, whether eccentrically colourful or more monochromatic, has influenced the way I feel about myself daily, and generally.”

Want to hear more from RKZ ? In part 2, RKZ explores the not-so-nice side of the fashion industry and how to tackle it. Read part 2 here

Photography by Hannah Miles.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article or in the comments below, are not those held by CALM or its Trustees unless stated, and liability cannot be accepted for such comments. We encourage friendly and constructive debate, but please don't share personal contact details when commenting and exercise caution when considering any advice offered by others. We don’t allow abusive, offensive or inappropriate comments or comments that could be interpreted as libellous, defamatory or commercial and we will remove these without warning as and when we find them.

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