I have had the wonderful opportunity of working with an organisation called Jack.org as a both a volunteer and an employee. Jack.org works to empower young leaders who want to change the face of mental health, empower youth, educate the public, and break down the stigma and raise awareness about mental health. It is an organisation that sprouted from the face of tragedy, when young Jack Windeler took his life when he was in first year at Queen’s University, having suffered silently from mental illness. No one knew he was suffering, and his death came as a shock to his family and friends. Only once it became clear what Jack was going through did some of the problems with youth mental illness become apparent, including youth understanding and comfort with accessing helping resources, a lack of awareness about the signs of mental illness in youth, a lack of empowerment for youth to advocate and support each other’s mental health, and the ongoing issue of stigma from lack of education and awareness. Jack’s family started Jack.org in his memory and to help work towards a future where no young person has to feel alone, feel ostracised, or feel that they cannot speak about and share their experiences with mental health. They share the message in hopes that everyone will realise that they have mental health, whether or not they are suffering from mental illness – and that they need to not only watch out for each other and take care of each other, but also to take care of themselves.
While working with this organisation, I have also been able to help out at their Jack Summit – an annual youth-led, National Summit that brings together 200 youth from across Canada to work together to change the face of mental illness, to empower young leaders, and to bring together the best ideas around anti-stigma around youth mental health and to then turn those ideas into action.
At the Jack Summit conference in 2013, I had the AMAZING pleasure of meeting two young people who were attending the conference, Kyle MacNevin and Kayley Reed. Then, fabulously, I got to know them EVEN BETTER at the 2014 conference where they returned as speakers to talk about their business! They took their passion ignited from the 2013 summit and they have since been tirelessly been bringing their ideas to life in support of both mental health as well as fashion.
Welcome to Wear Your Label! I am a huge supporter and love their work, and basically love both Kayley and Kyle as humans in what they stand for and what they are working to do. They are sincerely awesome people.
Recently, Wear Your Label has taken off, and has been featured by Buzzfeed as well CBC New Brunswick and many other blogs and features. You can find out more about them at their website (and obviously check out their sweet gear), as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Check out my interview with them and what they had to say below!
- Tell us a bit about what makes your clothing line unique, and how you got started.
Kyle and I met last year while both in university; we were struggling with our own mental health challenges. Kyle lives with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and ADHD, and I was battling an eating disorder. One night over dinner, the idea sparked to combine two things we were passionate about: fashion, and mental health. Wear Your Label was born.
As two fashion lovers, we knew how much power fashion could have to create this sort of change. You wear clothing everyday; what if that clothing could help you feel better everyday too? Or to feel connected, or to help you create an uncomfortable conversation that needs to be had? That's what we hope Wear Your Label can do. We design with positive reinforced messaging and subtle symbols and designs that can help the wearer feel empowered, but also, remain stylish.
As much as clothing is our favourite means of creating conversations, it's only one small aspect of what we've created with Wear Your Label. What we really focus on building is this community of positive mental health, and fashion just happens to be our means of execution.
- What do you find most rewarding about running Wear Your Label?
The messages we receive and the stories that we hear from people who come across our brand or are touched by our message. It can be overwhelming to receive such personal emails or listen to struggles or challenges, but also so rewarding to realize that we're not alone in this and that so many people are passionate about the same things that we are passionate about.
- How do you hope to grow Wear Your Label in the next few years?
We've seen a lot of international growth this month from some press exposure, and we'd love to keep rolling with that and see where it goes! There's a lot of big collaborations and things in the works for the future. Some of our goals are to expand to more plus sizes, and manufacture a cut-and-sew collection of higher-end pieces.
- What do you hope the effect will be of your clothing line on society?
I think for us, we'd love for Wear Your Label to be a part of the reason people feel more open, accepting, and understanding of mental illness. We know that our clothing can't replace treatment or medications, but it can help create conversations and community. But if we're able to help reduce stigma and contribute to a more positive society, we'll feel accomplished.
- What motivates you to do the hard work of being an entrepreneur?
Mostly the nature of our work. Being an entrepreneur is really hard, and all-consuming. If we weren't as passionate about the cause, or as personally invested, I'm not sure we could do it. But seeing people share their stories with us on social media, or being invited to speak at different events really keeps us motivated and reminds us that this matters. It's hard to imagine doing anything else right now.
- When you hit a rough spot in your life, what helps you get back on your feet and continue doing what you love?
Self-care is really important to both of us (we even made a shirt that reads "Self-Care Isn't Selfish"). We'll take a day off work, or spend an afternoon working outside, indulge a little, or find ways to incorporate positive self-care habits into our work at the studio. We're big believers that you have to take care of yourself in order to help others, and we try to live by that.
- Is there a message that you would like to leave with readers?
We started Wear Your Label with this idea to reclaim the labels that stigmatize us; it's evolved so much since then, but this notion of taking ownership over your mental health has always stayed the same. We are not defined by what we're labelled; we are so much more than that.
Thanks Kyle and Kayley!
*(If you didn’t get to see our cross post interview where they shot some questions my way as well, you can check it out here!)