This week we find ourselves inspired by Kayley Reed, the founder and CEO of Wear Your Label.
Wear Your Label, it has been a passion project for Reed since its inception. While in university Kayley joined a support group for eating disorder sufferers. It was then that she realized she wasn’t alone in her fight with her eating disorder. It also taught her the importance of being able to speak openly about her challenges. She wanted to do her part to remove the stigma around mental health.
And so Wear Your Label was born.
Wear your label is a clothing line designed to spark conversation around mental health. Cozy, comfortable pieces, the Wear Your Label Line is meant to inspire self-care. It’s also meant to remind those struggling with mental health and taking care isn’t selfish, it’s survival.
For that, we find Kayley so very inspirational.
How did you get involved with the work you currently do?
Throughout university I struggled with an eating disorder and depression, but I was very much in denial that I needed help. I had this image of what mental illness was “supposed” to look like, and I didn’t fit; I was doing great in school, I had a supportive family and friends, and I felt like I had no reason to be feeling the way that I did. I had built up this image of who I thought I should be, and didn’t want to falter from that by admitting that I was struggling with my mental health. So, I kept my mental illness a secret throughout university.
After a lot of reluctance, in my final year of school, I started going to group counseling. It was the first time I met other women who were experiencing the same struggles that I was, and the first time I realized how common these issues actually are – yet mental illness is so stigmatized. I started becoming more interested in mental health, and took a position at a mental health organization during my last semester. I was working on youth engagement programs, and that’s where the idea for Wear Your Label was born – to use fashion as a medium to create conversations about mental health.
At the time, I was still really scared about opening up about my own experiences, but I knew that if I wanted to pursue this idea and really make a difference through advocacy, that I’d have to open up about my own struggles too. And as terrifying as it was, it was also unexpectedly relieving: the more I opened up, the more others around me started sharing their stories. And so the Wear Your Label brand grew out of those experiences.
What is your WHY? (The reason why you do the work you do)
Ultimately, it’s for my younger self. Wear Your Label is what I wish I had when I was struggling. But as we grow, the “why” has become much bigger than that. It’s about creating a community of people who “get it”, it’s about reminding people that they’re not alone, it’s about challenging the status quo and getting people to ask questions, and ultimately it’s about reducing the stigma that silences those with mental illness.
What’s piece of advice would you give to someone trying to do what you do, or trying to follow their own dreams?
There’s no such thing as an overnight success. Everything takes patience and hard work, and almost everything takes longer than you anticipate it to.
That said, entrepreneurship isn’t for everybody. It’s unpredictable, unstable, risky, and a lot of mental stress. But if you find something you love, and you can combine that with your skills to solve a problem, absolutely go for it. It’s incredibly rewarding to build something and see it come to life. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
How do you do manage to do it all?
A lot of self-care! Seriously, starting Wear Your Label been one of the best and worst things for my mental health. The “startup life” is really overglorified in my opinion, valuing “hustle” over health. It took me a while to realize that self-care isn’t selfish – it’s necessary.
Taking time for myself, to regroup & refresh, helps me stay motivated to work hard and put my energy efficiently into new projects. I started doing #SelfCareSundays as a way to take 1 day out of my week completely disconnected from emails and work. We also implemented Friday mornings off work at Wear Your Label, encouraging employees (and myself) to take time for themselves before the weekend.
Luckily, I love what I do – and I think that’s a big component in being motivated and energized to keep going, even in the face of obstacles. If you’re passionate about something, you’ll find a way to make things work – always.
If you had one wish to help make the world a better place, what would it be?
If you could pick one charitable organization to ask our readers to donate to or volunteer with, which would it be?
Jack.org! They are the only national network of student leaders changing the way we think about mental health. My involvement with mental health runs deep with Jack.org – I was a part of the Jack Summit, which is their annual student-led conference, when I was in university, and their organization is one that I’ve always kept close to my heart. They do amazing work in getting students involved on campuses across Canada to raise awareness for mental health issues, and have created a really special community in doing so.