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Here's How Luxury Brands Have Entered the Mental Health Chat

Photo Courtesy of LOUM

One of the most significant issues facing the world today is mental health. In any given year, one in five people in the U.S. will experience a mental illness. Even more troubling, nearly half of those people will go without treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI). It’s clear more action is needed.

October 10 marks World Mental Health Day, an annual campaign to promote mental health awareness and move the conversation about mental health issues forward. The 2021 theme—Mental Health in an Unequal World—speaks volumes. The topic comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis that exposed a polarized world and a lack of mental health resources.

To spotlight the significance of mental health awareness and education in the luxury space, we spoke with Kat Bryce, the founder of skincare brand LOUM, and Taryn Bird, the senior director of social impact at Kate Spade New York. Each brand has made a significant effort to speak out about mental health and use its platform to encourage positive change.

How Fashion and Beauty Brands Are Leaning In

Launched in 2020 and grounded in years of psychodermatology research, LOUM skincare aims to reverse the effects of stress hormones on the skin. It all started when LOUM founder Kat Bryce noticed the impact stress had on her own complexion. Through extensive research, Bryce learned that stress hormones—including adrenaline and cortisol—are responsible for eight of the top 10 skin concerns. However, no one was talking about it. 

When the World Health Organization declared burnout a syndrome in May 2019, the conversation around stress increased. “It felt like the right time to address the consequences of stress on the skin, including de-stigmatizing the conversation around mental health,” says Bryce.

Since then, the brand has become one of NAMI’s Stigma-Free partners and offers shoppers the option to round up each purchase to donate to the organization. It’s also an ally of #BeautyCares, a cross-brand initiative to move mental health from awareness to action; other partners include Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty, Philosophy, and Benefit Cosmetics.

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The Fashion and Beauty Industry’s Toll on Mental Health

In a #filtered world of selfies and Instagram photo dumps, it can be challenging for individuals to prioritize mental health. The Mental Health Foundation found that 22 percent of adults and 40 percent of teens believe social media is a cause of negative body image, which can exacerbate mental health issues. 

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that teens who spend more than three hours per day on social media—a place where fashion and beauty brands rule the roost—are at a higher risk for mental health problems than those who don’t. 

These issues have no doubt grown due to the relentless marketing campaigns from fashion and beauty brands that promise a better life if we buy that perfect LBD or decadent eye cream. As a result, our appearances and our mental health have become increasingly and inevitably intertwined. 

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Can Brands Inspire Change?

“We place a lot of focus on both who we work with as well as our messaging to ensure our social channels create a positive space for mental health,” says Bryce of LOUM. 

Currently, the brand is working with artist and influencer Beth Evans, who makes art based on her struggles with anxiety. The company is also launching a podcast called Beyond the Bathroom Door, where it will host candid discussions about mental health. 

“We hope that by using our social channels to have honest conversations about mental health, we can create a safe space and show our community they’re not alone,” she says.

Kate Spade uses its social channels similarly. For the second year, the brand partnered with the Born This Way Foundation—founded by Lady Gaga and her mother—for the 21 Days of Kindness initiative. From September 1 to 21, Kate Spade utilized TikTok and Instagram to demonstrate the power of goodness, validate the emotions of young people, and work to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health. 

How Will Brands Continue to Promote Mental Health?

Removing the stigma around mental health is one of the most critical issues our culture must tackle. Although there has been a remarkable shift in the collective perception of mental wellness, there is still much work to be done.

Fortunately, what’s good for society is also good for business—and we can likely expect more brands to join the conversation. According to Deloitte, purpose-driven companies grow three times faster than their competitors and achieve higher workforce and customer satisfaction. It’s no wonder more brands are spreading awareness, collaborating with mental health organizations, and promoting the power of connection.

Here, we’ve rounded up our favorite beauty and fashion brands that are giving back to their communities and moving the needle forward on mental health issues. Shop them all and rest assured your dollars are going to a good place. 

Brands That Support Mental Health Initiatives

Kate Spade New York puts mental health at the heart of its social impact work. This year, it will support its hometown by donating $75,000 to The National Council for Mental Wellbeing. This donation allows New Yorkers in the artistic community to receive mental health first aid training and mental health education workshops.

In recognition of World Mental Health Day, LOUM launched new packaging created by Instagram artist Beth Evans for its soothing Tranquil Radiance Mask. The label will donate 100 percent of the profits from the collaboration to NAMI.

This L.A.-based fashion label encourages open and honest conversations around mental health through its products and experiences. Madhappy’s proceeds fund a digital community called The Local Optimist; the community uses stories, playlists, podcasts, and interviews to break down the stigma around mental health.

IDONTMIND is a lifestyle and fashion brand that uses its designs to boost communication around mental illness. As its website notes, “A compliment—’I like your shirt, what does it mean?’—suddenly turns into an opportunity to discuss mental health.” The label donates 100 percent of its proceeds to Mental Health America, a non-profit that promotes mental health and preventing mental illness through advocacy, education, and services. 

Celebrity stylist Maeve Reilly founded this L.A. brand after being a victim of bullying in school and on the internet. Through bold, ethically created designs that highlight compassion and positivity, The Local Love Club aims to make kindness cool. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Kind Campaign, which hosts school assemblies around the world to prevent girl-on-girl bullying. 

Sam Abrahart founded The Mayfair Group in 2017 after years of struggling with mental health. The brand offers a range of positive affirmation loungewear. Items are emblazoned with phrases like “somebody loves you,” “your emotions are valid,” and “empathy always.”

The Happiness Project’s goal is to spread joy and help those affected by mental health issues. Its items include classic T-shirts, loungewear, and other pieces that feature the brand’s colorful logo. The retailer gives 15 percent of its profits to mental health research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In 2020, it donated $52,423.

Eli Brown founded this unisex clothing brand after suffering from depression and anxiety. Shine the Light On aims to raise awareness around mental health and influence kids and teens with a collection emblazoned with meaningful messages. For every piece sold from the brand’s KC&G (Kindness, Courage & Gratitude) collaboration with Sharna Burgess, 20 percent of the proceeds go to Smile Train, a nonprofit that provides corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates.

After dealing with mental health issues, Taylor Draper founded direct-to-consumer menswear shop Inherent and the Inherent Foundation to encourage mental wellness for men. The brand designs modern-day “suits of armor” to inspire confidence and empower customers to speak openly about mental health. Inherent also partners with local and national organizations to build awareness around men’s mental health issues.

Through her CBD-infused and plant-based lip line, Anxiety Cosmetics founder Brielle Brown aims to share hope with those who struggle with mental health. Items in the collection boast names such as fearlessresilientradiant, and brighter now. A portion of all proceeds is donated to further research, education, care, and awareness surrounding mental health and disorders. 

Female-founded and led brand I’MMANY is an eccentric handmade jewelry label based in London. The name is short for “I’m many” and highlights that we each have many sides to ourselves and all of them are worth celebrating. I’MMANY donates to several charities regularly, including Marie CurieThe Loveland Foundation, and Mind Charity.

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