Raise your hand if you know someone who has or is struggling with mental illness. I can think of at least several people off the top of my head. Chances are you know at least one person; perhaps you even do yourself. Perhaps it is something that is talked about openly, but chances are there are people you know who aren’t talking about it because of the stigma attached with mental illness.
That’s where Wear Your Label, a conscious clothing line founded by Kyle MacNevin and Kayley Reed, comes in. Kyle and Kayley started this handmade line of bracelets and screen printed clothing “to help you feel connected, and empowered to share your story” through positive messages. All of their pieces are screen printed by local artists affected mental illness. Not only are they working to take away the stigma and enable people to talk about their struggles through their clothing, but they donate 10% of their profits to mental health initiatives and partner organizations (to date, they’ve already donated over $1400!) as well as host workshops. Today Kayley is here to share with you about her amazing handmade company.
Tell us a little bit about your work and how you got started with it.
Wear Your Label is a conscious clothing line, using fashion to end the stigma associated with mental health. Myself and my partner, Kyle, have both experienced mental illness and we pitched the idea of a clothing line to a business accelerator program (The Summer Institute) at my university (The University of New Brunswick). We were accepted into the program, and during that time received business and design mentorship. That’s where we learned how to screen print and fell in love with the process. We started doing it ourselves because we were bootstrapping our business, then we realized the value of something handmade and kept along with it! There’s something special about knowing someone who has gone through a struggle, is making something just for you, in hopes of helping you get to your strength.
What’s the story behind your business’ name?
It’s kind of funny- at first, we came up with this idea of putting mental health labels on clothes. “Anorexia” or “Anxiety” on a t-shirt, and giving profits back to respective charities. That was a really bad idea. We realized making a bold statement wasn’t necessarily the best way to create change, so we pivoted and settled on positively reinforced messaging in our brand. We kept the name “Wear Your Label” because it means more to us than physically wearing your illness; it means being open to talking about your mental health, and taking ownership over whatever you might be struggling with.
What do you like most about having your own creative business? What do you find most challenging?
The best part is seeing a design, something you put your heart into and work hard on for hours (or days, or weeks) finally come to life. And hearing customers share their stories of mental health, through our clothing. It’s amazing and very rewarding.
The most challenging part of owning a creative business is probably time management, and knowing your flaws and strengths. It’s wonderful to have a business partner for this reason, because it can be easy to do all the things you WANT to do when you own your business, and not the things you HAVE to do. Thankfully, our skills and interests balance each other out.
What inspires you to create?
We’re inspired by our personal experiences and struggles with mental illness. But also, everything around us. Film, media, the stories we share and those we hear. Inspiration is everywhere!
What do you think motivates others to buy handmade?
I think we’re slowing moving away from the “fast fashion” culture and craving meaning in everything we buy. An appreciation for quality and care in a garment is becoming more and more important to more people. Plus, it’s nice to put see your support helping a local artisan or business versus having a disconnect with your product.
What is your favorite handmade item you have bought or received?
I have many! I recently discovered an organic lingerie line by a local designer Hanna Broer, and had the pleasure of getting my hand on some of her items. They are incredibly comfortable and well-fitting!
When you are not making making art what do you like to do with your time?
Realistically, doing the 100 other (less-fun) things it takes to run a business haha. But I also work as a fashion writer which is my “downtime”.
What is something people might not know about you?
Before starting Wear Your Label, I was actually accepted to Parsons New School for my Masters in Fashion. It was a my dream school, and dream program. Then, Wear Your Label became a big part of my life – and I realized if I didn’t pursue it now, I never would have the chance. So I declined my offer, hoping that school will always be there.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to others with their own creative business
Sometimes you have to take risks (like saying no to school, and yes to starting a business). But if you put your heart into it, believe that it’s something special, and have a good team / support system around you – you will find all your risks paying off!
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