Break Free Fashion Show Highlights Mental Health

Did you know that employees in creative fields such as fashion are 25% more likely to develop and or experience mental health disorders? We’ve seen the reality of this statistic through real-life tragedy. We’ve lost beloved Kate Spade, L’wren Scott, Alexander McQueen, and so many more. The merge of fashion and mental health is being taken head-on by LadyCat. AKA Alexandra Nyman, a designer, and mental health and addiction recovery advocate.

Alexandra created Break Free, a runway show with a cause. Break Free is on a mission to deliver the difficult conversation of substance use disorder and mental health issues through fashion. Break Free took place on February 14th, 2022, in Manhattan. It is described as, “A space for sober and mental health advocates to share their art with other like-minded individuals in a showcase during NYFW.” They recruited mental health and substance use disorder advocates to walk as models as well as some featured as designers.

6 designers total showcased their collections on the runway, each with a special meaning.

Jacqueline City

Jacqueline City, CEO of Jacqueline City Apparel, is a disabled fashion designer who suffers from dysautonomia, POTS, PTSD, and heart disease. She is self-taught and debuted her sustainable, vegan, size-inclusive clothing line on the runway.

Love Disorder

Minneapolis’ Love Disorder, created by Andre S, is all about breaking the stigma. The streetwear brand’s mission is to deliver facts and awareness with the hope of making acceptance surrounding mental health and the challenges that follow it more normalized.


Inclusivity is something that every brand should have incorporated by now. And if they haven’t they can look to Zephyr as a guide. Kelsey Zephyr is described as a proudly queer, disabled, designer and advocate. Using art as an outlet, Kelsey has developed and delivered one of the most beautiful runway shows.


Mental health advocate Svetlana Chernienko debuted her recently rebranded, sustainable, spring collection, WU-SAH. Chernienko was awarded the Community Service Excellence Award by the Canadian government in 2021 for her work with mental health, domestic abuse and human rights within her community. 

Adorn Your Clothes

Adorn Your Clothes uses scrap fabrics to produce simple, timeless silhouettes that compliment everybody. They debuted 5 looks at the Break Free runway show, one being this T-shirt that used algae ink and upcycled fabric!


Alexandra Nyman is the name behind the groundbreaking LadyCat, who originally got their big break in 2019. Back in 2019 the ready-to-wear collection, Therapy, was designed with the health journey of Alexandra’s younger brother after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1. At Break Free, LadyCat showcased “Therapy Revisited”.

Why is all of this important though? In 2019, The Business of Fashion published “Inside Fashion’s Enduring Mental Health Epidemic”. This gave an insight into what it’s like entering the fashion industry. It’s not pretty! It’s full of competition, burnout, anxiety, fear, and the constant motto: Make It or Break it.

From movies and TV you might think that the fashion industry is something full of glamour, celebrities, and money. However, that’s far from the reality. Fast fashion has taken hold of the reigns and radically shifted the industry. Instead of shows two seasons a year there are endless drops of new collections. This ultimately leads to the overworked and burned out employees. Firstly, because of the competitive nature of the fashion industry, recent graduates will do anything to get their foot in the door. This leads to the normalization of unpaid internships with a massive workload. (But hey you’re working for some of the biggest fashion houses, right? Wrong.)

Secondly, someone’s mental health and well being shouldn’t be the price to pay –regardless of the industry.

It’s time the industry sees some change and a runway show, during fashion week, is definitely a way to get started. We can hope as an industry that speaking out about and promoting mental health continue.

If you or a loved one is struggling here are some resources,

–Savannah Foley

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