A Canada-based fashion company is fighting to end mental-health stigmas in style.
Co-founded by Kyle MacNevin, 22, and Kayley Reed, 21, just over a year ago, the company designs and sells T-shirts, tank tops, sweaters, bracelets and bottoms that feature messages such as “Self-Care Isn’t Selfish,” “Struggle vs. Strength,” “Stressed but Well Dressed” and “Your Story Isn’t Over” for prices ranging from $30 to $70. The brand is also launching a Kickstarter campaign May 20 to raise funds and expand the collection.
“Our goal is to raise awareness and ultimately end the stigma,” MacNevin tells PEOPLE. “But moreover, we want to foster community and care around an issue that is so isolating.”
The pair met at the University of New Brunswick while teaming up on youth engagement workshops for a mental-health organization. Only a few weeks into working together — and opening up to each other about their personal experiences with mental-health issues — they came up with the idea for their fashion brainchild.
“When you start being open about your own mental health and take ownership of your own struggles, more and more people feel comfortable sharing their story with you,” says Reed, explaining that she struggled with an eating disorder. MacNevin deals with anxiety and ADHD.
The pair design and screen-print everything themselves in a studio in New Brunswick. Fun fact: They weren’t even fashion majors in college!
MacNevin sketches whenever a new design comes to mind, even if all he has is a clean napkin on a bus ride.
“I really enjoy the process of taking something, putting meaning to it and looking back and witnessing the design stages from start to end,” he says. (Spoiler: He’s working on some funky joggers for spring 2016.)
They also make sure that all of the slogans and taglines are “positively reinforced” and motivational.
“We need to be careful about what we design because this is such a sensitive topic,” Reed explains, “because you don’t want the words to be even more triggering or cause uncomfortable conversations.”
For the mental-health advocates, the best validation is knowing that, even if for a moment, the brand has helped someone out there find a community.
“People have Tweeted at us saying, ‘This garment is the best antidepressant I have ever had.’ It really makes your heart skip a beat to know that something you made means so much to someone else,” MacNevin says.
The duo have come up with creative — not to mention fashion-forward — ways to make their clothes stand out while staying true to the cause:
Models: Reed and MacNevin found it “overwhelming” to pick models based on measurements and appearance. Instead, they select role models, as they call them, through an application process: “We don’t have a size restriction; they don’t have to be a certain height. We just ask that they send a couple photos and explain their personal connections to mental health.”
Tags: Where you’d typically find a label with washing and drying instructions, Wear Your Label partnered with a professional psychologist who wrote garment tags with special messages about how to take care of yourself. “It raises awareness, but also helps the individual wearing it and hopefully turns his or her day around too,” Reed explains.
The Website: They ditched typical guys and girls sections on the site and instead offer unisex items. “Our philosophy is, if you like a style, you should buy it and wear it with pride,” Reed says. “It doesn’t matter if you associate directly with the model wearing it in the picture.”
Profits: 10 percent of WYL earnings are donated to mental-health initiatives.