Dealing with Addiction in the Fashion Industry

Among the high fashion models and runways, a darker side of the fashion industry exists. To keep up with the ever-constant demands for younger, sexier, and skinnier models, let alone ones who can get through a long fashion show while eating very little to fit into the designer outfits, fashion models endure more than most onlookers appreciate. To get through the day and still have energy left for one more energetic turn on the runway, some models accept an offer of prescription or illicit drugs. And it’s not only the models.

Looking the Part on the Runway

Former Calvin Klein model, Kayley Chabot, an inexperienced 15-year-old, found that the pressure to stay slim resulted in her developing an eating disorder. This then led into the world of soft and later harder drugs to keep going on nights out. At one point, Chabot was only consuming 500 calories per day to stay rake thin to suit the demands of fashion labels who wouldn’t book her unless she looked exactly right. Alcohol and drugs suppressed her appetite for a while which helped her to stay slimmer, but it created a rapid spiral.

Chabot’s story is not uncommon. Modeling at age 13 and signed to Ford Models at 15, the pressure to stay young and beautiful and slender never went away. Quite often, the pressure spills over. Realizing she was getting into trouble and didn’t know how to resolve it while still working as a model, Chabot took the decision to quit the industry at 17. She needed to step away to get off drugs. Going into an addiction treatment facility like Trafalgar Residence ( is often the only way to get effective help which includes providing patients with the right coping tools once they’re clean.

Pictures from Chabot’s modeling career shared on Instagram depict a girl who looked alarmingly thin. In more recent photos of her current career away from the so-called glitz and glamor of the bright lights, she looks much healthier with colorful skin and a happy disposition. The difference is night and day.

Staying Awake Behind the Scenes

In 2017, Fast Company Magazine featured a lady they named Ana, a Yale undergrad who pursued a career in the fashion industry. Working for the likes of Dolce & Gabbana as an intern during her studies at her prestigious college, she graduated and went on to become an assistant in New York for Tommy Hilfiger’s brand. The dream of getting into high fashion and working in the industry to build a successful career had begun in earnest.

There was just one problem. The wages. $24,000 for a job in the fashion industry in the Big Apple back in 2010 didn’t go very far. There was no way to stretch that into something more; it just wasn’t enough. The reality for new employees was that you needed to have stocked away a pile into savings while studying at college or have wealthy parents willing to foot the bill for your early working years until you could get established. Not everyone was so lucky.

Along with the lengthy hours and less than friendly bosses, stressed out employees often turned to prescription medication acquired through questionable connections to help their addled bodies get through the day. Never feeling safe from one season to the next with a popular fashion collection perhaps meaning continued employment and a badly received one calling that into question certainly didn’t help.

Wannabe Fashion Designers Struggle Too

As the lawsuits fly over internships without pay across a variety of industries, the pay standards for new fashion employees is usually dismal. Amanda Curtis was a budding new designer. She was attending the Parson’s School of Design following a stint at Boston University. She fast-tracked at Parson’s completing their two-year course in 12-months. Her design portfolio was equally impressive and caught some attention in the industry.

She worked first at the New York Fashion Week on behalf of designer Richie Rich. Several months of work designing new outfits for A-list celebs and high-fashion models followed and provided around four hundred dollars in compensation. Stints at Diane von Furstenberg may not have been compensated at all and being an assistant fashion designer at another big-name label brought in under $40,000 for a year’s work.

Surviving as a new fashion designer, earning your stripes while a designer’s label is sewn into your designs is an expensive path to take. Without startup capital to create a collection of their own, new designers feel trapped working for low wages in some of the most expensive cities in the world. Surrounded by glitz and money dripping from everywhere, it seems only profitable at the very top. Is it any wonder that fashion and drugs as a coping mechanism seem to move in lockstep?

Millennials & The Internet Generation That’s Changing Fashion

One of the good things about the millennial generation is that their work-life balance often means more to them than money. They’re looking for different ways to disrupt industries and avoid the drudgery that serving your dues often requires.

That could mean cloud funding a fashion collection with early adopters buying fashion pieces before they’ve even been designed or platforms like the 19th Amendment which provides an e-commerce platform for new fashion designers where garments are produced one at a time in the bustling garment district in New York. If there’s a different way to go about it, millennials will find a way.

Working in the fashion industry is tough. When the glitter wears off and the bright lights have been toned down, how are people coping? Conditions are improving. Previously unpaid internships are often becoming paid internships now. New designers can choose to work at an established fashion label to get some hands-on experience, but they can also create their own collection privately and use innovative ways to fund its development and production. Perhaps slower and not at scale, but enough to sell slowly and build a brand of their own in their formative years in fashion. That’s excellent news for anyone with a flare for design who wants a positive outlook on the industry.