There are many struggles in life; money, relationships, death, and the failures that sometimes come with taking risks. We all experience them. We all suffer because of them. Mental health issues are no exception. Wear Your Label, an up-and-coming fashion house in Fredericton, New Brunswick, is trying to create a new standard against the social stigmas that surround mental illness, and co-owners Kayley Reed and Kyle MacNevin have found a way to transform these struggles into a means of pride. This team has been breaking down stigmas one design after another with their mental health initiative. Kayley and Kyle have both experienced their own troubles with mental illness but are working to help others accept their labels and to dig deeper for the strength that comes from their experiences.
In 2013, Kyle and Kayley met while working at Dots NB, an organization promoting children’s mental health, and bonded over their common experiences. Kayley is recovering from Anorexia Nervosa and Kyle deals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, “While we were working on this, and sharing our stories with each other, we realized how hard it is to create conversations about mental health. We wanted to create something that would help people do that.” With this common bond, the two came up with the concept behind WYL, an idea as literal as their name: putting these labels on clothing. Kyle admits that wasn’t the best of ideas; without creating a conversation these labels were just words, “We were only wearing our label, and there’s more to it than that. I think we’ve really understood what the importance is of being open and talking about vulnerability, accepting that for who you are, and recognizing that that’s a strength.”
Even though only one in five individuals will experience some form of mental illness first-hand, everyone should be aware of their own relative state of mental wellbeing. Wear Your Label fosters ‘conversations, community, and care’ and with brand ideas, such as ‘cozy couture’, creates accessible pieces that are intended to give the wearer a sense of self-confidence. Kayley and Kyle have gone the extra mile to center their operation on these three ideas. Not only are they both heavily involved in community outreach on both provincial and national levels, they use their social media platforms to ask their customers to share their stories. They also create every article of clothing in their own studio, right down the tags that incorporate tips to leading happy and healthy lives, “We believe we can offer something unique that maybe you’re traditional manufacturer couldn’t. We put care and love into each shirt.”
One of the goals of WYL is to be able to make mental health a topic that is accessible as possible to society. This conversation is often one that we forget, but campaigns like Bell’s Let’s Talk, we are starting to see a real change in how many Canadians look at mental illness. Kayley and Kyle are taking on this endeavour in a way that manages to not only dissolve the negative connotations of labels, but also encourages people to be proud of these labels that contribute to their personalities. They often ask their models, individuals who have their own experiences with mental illness (and appropriately referred to as ‘(role)models’), what their journey with mental health has been. They have of policy of never retouching the models, knowing that this can cause body issues for the buyer.
“We want [the clothing] to be like a superhero’s cape where it’s like a part of your uniform and you wear it to take on the world.”
Kevin and Kayley are selling exclusively through their website but in the past few months have been in talks with brick and mortar retail stores to get their brand into a physical location. The team has collaborated with Beck & Boosh, a Nova Scotia based jewelry company, to create The Bracelet Project featuring bracelets that represent PTSD, eating disorders, anxiety, as well as other mental health issues to unite those who continue to fight, have survived, and support people with mental illnesses. The project contributes 10% of their profits to mental health causes and initiatives; investing the money into programs which help those that the bracelets represent.
Their other articles of clothing are a more visible expression of mental health; leggings, sweaters, and shirts featuring logos and slogans that discuss and acknowledge mental illness like ‘You’re story isn’t over’, ’Self-care is not selfish,’ and ‘It’s okay not to be okay.’ The duo is bringing these issues to the forefront and continually working to break down the walls that surround people who are dealing with these struggles.
For more information about Wear Your Label, Kayley and Kyle, or any of their upcoming events and appearances please visit them online at www.wearyourlabel.com or by following them on Facebook and Twitter.
If you, or someone you know are suffering from we encourage you to reach out and talk to a friend, parent, teacher, or professional. Please don’t suffer in silence. For more information on mental health initiatives in your area please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association.