Business: Wear Your Label
At a time when mental health is receiving an unprecedented level of public attention, it’s still a taboo topic to breach personally. Kayley Reed and Kyle MacNevin are applying their talents to make personal mental wellness a more comfortable thing to talk about. As MacNevin puts it, “Wear Your Label is about reclaiming the stigma around mental health.”
Reed and MacNevin met as volunteers and advocates for various mental health initiatives provincially and nationally. They both knew the facts and figures - 1 in 5 Canadians will personally experience a mental health issue - but found a deafening silence when it comes to actually talking about these issues on a personal level.
“We need to start personalizing mental health or most people will only understand it as these staggering statistics,” says Reed. “The numbers will tell you that you’re definitely not alone, but when no one talks about it, the journey to mental wellness can feel pretty lonely or even shameful. We want to change that.”
Their initial idea for Wear Your Label was a bold and brave move to break the silence: shirts emblazoned with the wearer’s mental health label, like depressed, anorexic, or bipolar. Their thinking is that seeing those labels on living, working, smiling, engaged people would change how one views mental health. MacNevin says:
“In health statistics, you’re defined by your diagnosis. When you wear your label, it’s obvious that you are so much more than your diagnosis. It’s part of you, but not all of you.”
The team still hopes to see mental health ambassadors literally wearing their label, just as they speak openly and courageously about their own relationships with anxiety and anorexia. But over this summer in the Foundry entrepreneurship program they were challenged to start with a softer touch to test the market and get some feedback. The team needed to find a balance of speed, reliability, and harmony in order to launch their first line of branded shirts and hats this summer. They recount the journey, back-and-forth:
“We decided to stick with our ethos and use a socially conscious supplier, instead of choosing the fastest and easiest way to get things done.”
“That decision really paid off though, because now we have a supplier that loves our shirts and cares about our mission too.”
“I guess the same goes for silkscreening the shirts ourselves.”
“Yeah, it takes time, but gives you more control over the process and the whole vibe of the clothing.”
With over 40 pre-orders and orders in a matter weeks, the team feels confident that they are doing something right.
“I’m from Red Deer, so we were expecting a few orders from my friends in Alberta,” says Reed, “But we’ve been amazed at the response we’re getting from provinces and countries where we don’t have a connection yet.”
“We love the idea of people living with mental health issues personally creating these little care packages for others with mental health issues,” says MacNevin.
“Also, if you look carefully at the XO print,” adds Reed, “You can see we’ve signed it with a hug and a kiss. We want people to feel loved when they wear these shirts and know that they’re not alone. If we can hang in there, we hope they’ll feel like they can too.”