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Making Mental Health Fashionable

ANDREW MEREDITH, Image courtesy of Sue Kreitzman
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Published date
17 March 2015

What happens when mental health, outsider art, and fashion collaborate? The first seminar of the Making Mental Health Fashionable series initiated by Dr. Victoria Tischler, LCF Senior Lecturer in Psychology, kicked off on Feb 25th.

Image courtesy of Sue Kreitzman

Image courtesy of Sue Kreitzman

Dr. David O’Fynn, consultant psychiatrist and chair of the Adamson Collection Trust chaired the event and presented the speakers Edward M. Gómez, Senior Editor at Raw Vision; John William, LCF Lecturer and Stylist; and Sue Kreitzman, Artist, Curator and Fabulous Fashionista.

Dr. Hannah Zeilig opened the event with an introduction of the work of Dr. Victoria Tischler and the aim of the project.

As a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS), the research of Dr. Tischler has been mainly focused on the use of creative approaches to enhance health and wellbeing. She raised the point that in the fashion industry, which encourages and celebrates innovation, creativity and eccentricity, the issue of mental health has largely been ignored.

Edward M. Gómez introduced the definition of ‘outsider art’, which refers to the work made by not only people with mental illness but by all self-taught artists. He combed the century-long history of the outsider art and showed its contemporary development in Japan. He strongly supports the idea that as with trained artists, the work of self-taught artists equally deserves critical and speculative appreciation and should be brought into dialogue of the main stream art history.

Edward said: “What you feel in these works, is the sense of a very compelling need to make the work…They are doing it because they have to, almost like breathing. That urgency, that raw creative pulse is what we feel often in looking at these work. It’s not calculated. It’s not theoretical concepts. It’s just direct creative energy, through the material. That’s why our magazine is called Raw Vision. That ‘raw’ is what we are celebrating.”

John William, showcased brilliant work from fashion and art icons engaged with mental health issues, and outsider art, he questioned whether fashion is exploring and engaging in debate on these issues or just exploiting them out of the obsession of extremes. He wishes to see more diversity in fashion and raised that collaboration should be celebrated, but it has to be done in non-exploitative and mindful way.

“Fashion is very clean, controlled hierarchical structure. It’s elite. It doesn’t invite people in. I am trying to address this with my work, and I encourage my students to address this also… I think we should all be mindful!”

Sue Kreitzman, whose flamboyant style and story are known to many, shared with the audience for the first time the full details of her journey. How art had become her loyal friend since her childhood, how her family had experienced mental health issues and how, in the ‘crippling, black, dark, scary depression’ moment, art and creating art has protected her and lifted her to flourish. She reminds us that real art comes from the gut and she encourages everyone to dare to wear in his or her own way.

“Don’t leave art to languish on the walls. Wrap yourself, festoon, engulf and adorn yourself. Glory in texture, colour and spectacle. Erupt into the world: brash, glittering, bejewelled and multi-coloured. Dare to be a graffito, a collage, an assemblage. Burst into art, and you will change your world forever.”

The talks were followed with a very inspiring Q&A session between the audience and the panel.

If you find the above intriguing then mark your calendar for the next event of the Making Mental Health Fashionable series, which is on the 25th March at LCF, focusing on textile and LCF student’s work in the Fire Starter project.

Words by Caroline Yan ZhengMA Fashion Futures