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A new fashion brand is trying to spark a conversation about mental health — and it starts with our clothes.
Wear Your Label’s T-shirts and tank tops feature slogans like “Self-care isn’t selfish” and “Sad but rad,” and the founders told TODAY.com their goal is to reduce the stigma around issues like depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
“Mental illness is invisible — you can’t see it,” co-founder Kyle MacNevin said. “When you break your arm, you get a cast. It’s a symbol to the world that something happened and you’re getting better. We try to do that with our clothing. So it says, I’m going through something, but I’m working on it.”
MacNevin, 22, and co-founder Kayley Reed, 21, started selling the clothes about eight months ago. They came up with the idea for Wear Your Label last year, while students at the University of New Brunswick in Canada, where they met and connected over their shared struggle with mental illness — Reed is recovering from anorexia nervosa and MacNevin struggled with anxiety disorder and ADHD.
“It was something that I was really shy about, and really reluctant to tell anyone about for a really long time,” Reed said. “It wasn’t until I met Kyle, who has been really open about his mental health experiences, that I became open about my experiences.”
Reed and MacNevin, who both live in New Brunswick, Canada say those conversations are key in helping young people who are struggling with mental illness. They hope the brand can help prevent tragedies like the story of Madison Holleran, the 19-year-old track star and University of Pennsylvania freshman who shockingly committed suicide last year.
“Hearing those stories can be really difficult for us, because either we’ve been in a similar situation or we’ve had close friends or family members who have been in those situations,” Reed said. “It really makes the job a little more difficult because everything is quite personal.”
“A lot of times we don’t recognize symptoms or know anything is wrong, and all it can take is that one conversation to get someone to open up,” she added. “We’ve heard really amazing stories from dads who used our T-shirts to start conversations with their daughters about self-esteem.”
Even the models the company uses all have a personal connection to mental illness. Take Nicki Palmer, an 18-year-old “role model,” as Wear Your Label calls them on its website, who says his learning disability caused him massive stress as a child struggling in school. He told TODAY.com he got involved with the brand when he met Reed at a photo shoot last year.
“I didn’t think about it too much, but once I got involved and started answering their questions, it dawned on me that this is really something special,” Palmer (seen below, left) said.
He said he wears the brand’s clothes even when he’s off-duty.
“It’s different than regular clothes,” Palmer said. “You look at it closely and it has a meaning to it. It means stay positive. Take some time to think about your mental health.”
The brand is launching a Kickstarter campaign next week to raise cash to expand their collection, which currently consists of casual pieces like tank tops, T-shirts, baseball shirts and bracelets.