“Wear Your Label sparked as a small idea: clothing to create conversations about mental health. We wanted to encourage individuals to take ownership of their mental health, rather than fear the labels that so often define us. “
— Kayley & Kyle, co-founders of Wear Your Label
View in FANIQUE Magazine Issue 3 HERE
Years ago, Kayley and Kyle who suffered from mental illness, realized the lack of public attention toward mental health when they both worked in a health organization —so together, they founded a fashion business, Wear Your Label, that creates and encourages conversations about mental health. Notably, 10% of the business profits are donated to mental health initiatives every year. Since that, the uniqueness of the brand itself has brought the two co-founders from stigma to fashion innovation and then to many life-changing achievements, including Startup Canada Sustainable Development Award.
FANIQUE: What excites you the most about this business?
Kayley: That we’re just at the tip of the iceberg. Mental health is still such a stigmatized topic among the majority of people, and the support we’ve received so far has been overwhelming. But it’s just the beginning (and a very small piece) of a much larger movement, and I think that’s what excites me the most.
FANIQUE: What makes Wear Your Label innovative?
Kayley: Our innovation is found in the way that we tackle the fashion and mental health industries – two fields that typically clash and oppose (fashion is sometimes notorious for making people’s mental health worse). But, we’ve found a way to combine them and create something positive. Here are some of the little details that make us unique:
We cast Role Models instead of fashion models – our application process is open to the public, there are no height/size requirements, we just ask each model to be willing to share their personal mental health story.
We removed gender categories on our website to encourage a safe shopping space for transgender and gender non-conforming youth.
Our clothing tags not only tell you how to wash and take care of your garments, but how to take care of yourself.
FANIQUE: In your company story that, both of you had suffered from mental problems and then decided to create something inspiring to support mental health together. How did that life changing moment happen?
Kayley: Kyle and I were working together at a local mental health organization during our last year of university. We hadn’t met each other prior to this but automatically felt this openness share our personal experiences with each other. I was battling an eating disorder, and Kyle was living with Generalized Anxiety and ADHD. At the time, I hadn’t told anybody else about my illness – my family, friends, and roommates didn’t know. I held a lot of self-stigma, but Kyle was so open about his experiences that it inspired me to open up as well. We realized that it’s rare for people to have those conversations because they’re really difficult and sometimes awkward to have. Both of us love fashion, and we thought, “what is the better way to get people talking about this, then through the clothing we wear every day?”
FANIQUE: What is the biggest challenge of having two co-founders on board, and how do you balance the relationship when it comes to different opinions? Who makes the final say?
Kayley: It’s been a learning curve. On one hand, we’re both so passionate about mental health and the mission of Wear Your Label. On the other hand, we’re both very opinionated when it comes to style and design, and we have completely opposite personality traits. Kyle is an extrovert, a risk-taker, a big idea guy; I’m an introvert, a planner, an executor. We both hold executive titles but have come to recognized each other’s strengths (and weaknesses) and balance the relationship that way. We also have some really great mentors and surrounding team members who we draw advice and feedback from when we’re in a rut.
FANIQUE: What is the process like to present a clothing line from concept to real products in the market?
Kayley: It’s much longer than either of us realized before being in the industry. For us, it’s something like that:
Research trends (in fashion and mental health), seasonal colors, styles, etc.
Create initial design drafts and concepts
Get feedback from team, brand ambassadors, customers, followers, family & friends
Create samples and shoot product
Narrow it down again to final products
Send to manufacturer for production
Along the way, we’re designing packaging and showing at different fashion weeks (we did NY, Toronto, and Halifax last year). We have a bank of so many designs that never make it to our site, which is great in a way because we always have backups and can revisit for new ideas.
FANIQUE: How competitive have you found it in E-commerce? And what makes your business stand out from other fashion startups?
Kayley: In a way, we haven’t found the competition too intense because there’s not a lot of people out there doing what we’re doing. We have a pretty unique product and story, it’s just a matter of cutting through all the noise to share that story. Our mission and the little details (like Role Models) really resonate with people, and sharing our story with the press or through blog posts and videos is what’s helped us stand out in a crowded space.
FANIQUE: Do you consider your business model sustainable, and why?
Kayley: Absolutely. I truly believe the social enterprise model is the business model of the future, and will become somewhat of a new standard. It’s more of a generational movement; mindsets around “success” are shifting, and “social” is integrating seamlessly into business. The bottom line is no longer about profits, it’s about impact. We actually won the Startup Canada Sustainable Development Award for Atlantic Canada last year – so a great validation that what we’re doing is working.
FANIQUE: Use three adjective words to define Wear Your Label.
Kayley: Bold, heartwarming, community.
FANIQUE: How does each of you unwind on the weekend?
Kayley: Cleaning, doing laundry, lots of Netflix, and not stepping into the office. It’s really easy to burn yourself out, so I *try* to remove myself from work and refresh on the weekends.
Kyle: Well, each weekend is very different. We are so lucky to be our own bosses… (well sometimes if I’m not in trouble with the ShEO Kayley) I love going to the movies with my mom, playing pond hockey, exploring new parts of the city. I really don’t spend enough time on unwinding. Maybe I should find some new ways to recharge by reading Fanique!
FANIQUE: What is the must-read book for entrepreneurs?
Kayley: The Dip – by Seth Godin
Kyle: People over Profit – Dale Partridge or Are You Fully Charged – by Thomas Roth
FANIQUE: How do you define FANIQUE?
Kyle: Fashion + Unique = Fanique
Kayley: A community sharing the uniqueness.