This week’s blog post is totally different. Thanks to the Twitter gods and goddesses, I was approached to collaborate with a super cool Canadian mental health organization called Wear Your Label (WYL).
If you don’t know, WYL is a conscious clothing line that aims to bust mental health stigma by starting conversations about mental illness through clothing. Their garments are designed to help consumers feel connected with their own story by using positive messages like “it’s okay not to be okay” and garment tags that teach you self-care. For WYL it’s more than just about clothes, 10% of profits go back to mental health organizations.
So who’s the dynamic duo behind WYL? That would be Kyle MacNevin, 22, and Kayley Reed, 21. The pair met in December 2013 while working on a youth engagement workshops for a provincial mental health organization. Both Kayley and Kyle have struggled with their own mental health issues: Kayley with anorexia and Kyle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but to them it’s nothing but a a label. On their website they explain:
“Our struggles with mental illness, and our experience working with mental health organizations, are what inspired to start the brand.”
If being engaged in various mental health initiatives and being budding entrepreneurs wasn’t enough, Kayley and Kyle also sit on the Youth Advisory Council for ACCESS-Canada, a $25 million initiative to improve mental health services across the country,
Wear Your Label has appeared in MTV, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen Magazine, Buzzfeed, Bustle, and The Today Show among others, and now Kayley and Kyle are gracing us with their presence to do a little Q&A on Mad Girl’s Lament! So my mad lovelies, give them a warm welcome (virtual wave!).
Why did you choose clothing as your vehicle to busting mental health stigma?
Kayley: We both love fashion and we’re passionate about mental health, so the idea kind of came about organically and just made sense to us. We realized there was a gap to be filled in both these industries, and Wear Your Label could fill it by raising awareness,doing good, all while being stylish.
Kyle: Often times the fashion industry makes you feel something and those feelings are generally ones of insecurity and vulnerablity. Clothing isn’t suppose to make you feel fat or second guess yourself – its suppose to make you feel amazing.
We at WYL found that there is a huge gap between how fashion can be used as a force for good. The best example would be a message we received yesterday; “sometimes my clothing has to say what I can’t.” That’s exactly what we want to do with our clothing; create conversations, community, and care around mental health.
One thing that I find really cool is that you don’t retouch any of the photos – product shots or look books – why is that so important to you and how does that advance WYL’s mission?
Kayley: I have some experience modelling, I’m represented by an agency here in Canada. So it’s something I’m pretty familiar with; I’ve been on the other side of the camera and seen the gorgeous images that come out afterwards – but they’re not me, and it’s an unrealistic representation of who I am. So many people don’t realize the hours of retouching work that goes into fashion images, and yet we all feel insecure about ourselves, and compare ourselves to those stunning magazine covers and editorials.
I’ve struggled with acne, and bodies image issues with my eating disorder, and so it was both a branding decision, but also an important personal decision from the beginning to keep models untouched.
I think for me anyways, honesty is really important. Especially, when we are advocating to have real meaningful conversations to eradicate stigma around mental health. Moreover, we feel that it’s important to show people as they are not what we want them to be. We love our Role Models
for who they are, and who they aspire to be not who we photoshop and paint them into perfection. We want our followers and customers to feel empowered when visiting our webpage, not insecure.
Why do you think few people are talking about mental health? Is it just stigma or is it something more?
Kayley: I think stigma from society is a huge reason. There’s a misunderstanding of what mental illness is, what it looks like, who is or can be affected, but I also think stigma from within is another issue. I remember being at my lowest with my eating disorder, and feeling so ashamed and judgmental of myself. When you feel those things towards yourself, let alone how others feel, you’re really unlikely to reach out or talk about it. With Wear Your Label, we’re trying to crush both those stigmas: helping mental illness become something more visible in society with a positive connotation, but also helping individuals feel more comfortable with who they are, like with small details like our “Self-Care” tags, which are sewn into every garment and give our consumers tips on how to turn their day around.
Kyle: Mental Illness is invisible. People have a really hard time understanding something they can’t see or identify with. If you break your arm you get a cast and its a symbol to the world that you’re hurt, but at the same time you are healing. Whether people recognize it or not they accept it and move on. There is no cast for mental illness and people aren’t just healing but living with their mental illnesses. We, at WYL, with our clothing try and replicate the cast idea. Our clothes are a way to show the world that yes, you might have a mental illness but you are healing and getting help.
Credit- Hanna Walters
One of my favourite t-shirts is one that reads “self-care isn’t selfish” on it. What do you do for self-care?
Kayley: I’m a big fan of tea, downtime alone, and pampering! Nail polish, face masks, and other super girly things always make me feel so comfortable and refreshed.
Kyle: I love watching movies, playing sports with friends, or working on new clothing ideas for WYL.
Many people would see having a mental illness as an obstacle, but you have seemed to use it as a spring board to create a unique and socially conscious business. Do you have any words of advice for those of us struggling with mental illness?
Kayley: It sounds so cliche, but you are not alone and things do get better. Not all at once, not over night, and it’s not easy, but with hard work, persistence, and the right support – it is so possible to overcome whatever you may be struggling with. If we can make it through, so can you.
Kyle: I think the best advice I have ever received is; “You cannot help others until you first help yourself” We really do try and advocate that through our work at WYL by making sure both Kayley and I are mentally healthy so that we can properly connect with people who reach out to us that may be struggling with their mental health.
On May 20, WYL is launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 so that they can expand their team, and meet manufacturing minimums for our Fall/Winter line. And like most Kickstarter campaigns, there are always supporter rewards!
Talking about super rewards, want your very own chance to buy your own Wear Your Label gear? I’m giving away a $30 promo code for Wear Your Label
. Enter today! Contest runs until May 31st.