Wear Your Label: clothing that creates conversations about mental health

Earlier this year, MHIN met Kyle, Co-Founder of Wear Your Label, at the World Bank / World Health Organization's Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Priority meeting. We were struck by their innovative approach to tackling mental health stigma, particularly among young people.

To celebrate International Youth Day, we caught up with Kyle to find out more:

What is Wear Your Label?

Wear Your Label is a conscious fashion brand that aims to remove the stigma surrounding mental health. We design shirts that say things like “Sad But Rad” and “Self Care Isn’t Selfish” to create positive conversations on mental health. We also have a line of gemstone bracelets and necklaces that each represent a different mental health struggle, covering everything from Schizophrenia to Survivors of Sexual Assault.

Why and how was Wear Your Label started?

[Co-founder] Kayley and I met while volunteering at a local mental health initiative. Although we were strangers at the time, we both felt comfortable opening up about our mental health struggles- I live with Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Kayley is recovering from an eating disorder. We came to the realization that conversations like these were hard to come by and it sparked the idea of designing clothing to create conversations about mental health. We want to encourage individuals to take ownership over their mental health, rather than fear the labels that can often define us.

What impact has Wear Your Label achieved so far and what's next?

I think people really connect with us in an authentic way because our intentions in the beginning were very simple. 'It's okay to not be okay' that saying has such power in very few words. We really wanted to help those struggling to communicate more effectively with loved ones about their mental health challenge. Kayley and I had experienced difficulties as a result of living with our mental health struggles so two years ago Kayley and I began this journey to make life easier for others. Now, we are reaching people all over the world. Every week, I ask my team to send me customer reviews. These are some of the most inspiring that help motivate me to keep going:

  • We had a young girl reach out to us on social media expressing that our t-shirt was the 'best anti-depressant' she ever received.
  • A father from rural Alberta, Canada sent us an email about his inability to connect with his younger daughter about her eating and self-esteem issues, he bought something from our store...and has never been closer to his daughter. The last line of the email wrote: 'thank you for bringing my daughter back to me'
  • We had a pop-up shop at a local grocery store with Joe Fresh. During the event a women grocery shopping walked by and wrote down on one our 'With Love' cards; 'I'm 71- still struggling but getting help. No shame!'
  • A young girl in central America contacted us with a long story about her inability to seek treatment from three different hospital emergency rooms. With plans to end her life she went home to her room to find a package from Wear Your Label with a note that read 'Every day may not be good, but there is goodness in everyday' which halted her decision to end her life.

What makes Wear Your Label so popular with young people?

How do we make mental health cool? Is a question that always wrinkles my brain. To start off we chose two opposing forces: fashion and mental health. It was our starting point to turn some heads and raise some funds. But, being popular is just a synonym for being dynamic and relevant. We are popular because mental health is at the fore front of social issues for young people.

I often find that young people don't want to be understood, but given the opportunity to express themselves freely. We try to build a brand that is a new platform for emotional conversation. It’s an opportunity to send us a snap chat if you’re feeling down, or a tweet about what you do for self-care. We are constantly learning from our customers and audience about what they need to better themselves.

Tell us about how Wear Your Label got involved with the Out of the Shadows event and what you gained from attending the Innovation Fair.

We felt very special to be invited, but also to release one of our new designs from New York Fashion Week during the conference for the delegates.

Tim Evans from the World Bank was an excellent connection. The commitment the WB made to global mental health has no longer made this a health issue but an economic issue.

We are very enthusiastic to see what is to come next.

What top tips does Wear Your Label have for other social entrepreneurs aiming to improve mental health worldwide?

Craft your story well. Your story is not a business pitch. It's the one conversation you will have over and over again with your friends, relatives, media, and others. If you have the ability to create a meaningful and articulate narrative other people will begin to start sharing your story. Growing and ever expanding your business or project.

Region: 
North America
Setting: 
Community
Approach: 
Empowerment and service user involvement
Advocacy
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