We're re-introducing the #WYLfamily, from co-founders to new employees. Taking it back to where it all started. Kayley is the co-founder & CEO at Wear Your Label. She is recovering from an eating disorder, and met Kyle while volunteering at a local mental health organization. The two shared their personal experiences with mental illness and their frustration with the stigma, and soon the idea for Wear Your Label was born.
Where were you before WYL? What were you doing?
I was just finishing my undergrad degree at Renaissance College (University of New Brunswick). That year, I had been accepted to do my Master's in Fashion Studies at Parsons New School of Design. It was literally my dream program - fashion, New York - and I got a pretty great scholarship to attend. At the same time, Kyle and I got accepted to a business accelerator for what was, at the time, just the beginning inklings of Wear Your Label. We didn't have a product, we barely had a brand, and we had no idea what we were doing with it or if it go anywhere. But the Summer Institute offered 3 months of full-time funding and mentorship to launch Wear Your Label - which was also a dream. We were at a cross roads: go back to school, or jump into this start up that at the time had no proof of concept. I decided to defer my Master's and take a chance on Wear Your Label, knowing that if we didn't do it then, we likely never would. Best decision I ever made.
Did you ever think WYL would reach what it has today?
Honestly, no. Our original idea was to create one line, launch it as a campaign, raise money, give back, be done. But we realized pretty quickly that there was so much opportunity to do more with it as soon as we put it out there. People began reaching out to us, sharing their own mental health stories, and building a community around Wear Your Label. Then, last May, "The Buzzfeed Era" totally changed our lives. Our story got picked up by international press outlets, we had hundreds of new customers, and all of a sudden we were this international brand. The real deal. It's been growing ever since, and I still can't believe how far we've come: from collaborating with brands like Joe Fresh, to working with people like Sarah Fisher and Jacob Hoggard. Sometimes Kyle and I just sit back and go "remember when we were screen printing shirts by hand til 2am and now we have "people" working with their "people". What is our life?!"
What are your goals for Wear Your Label in the future as well as ending the stigma?
There's really a million things we'd love to do, from collaborations to physical retail spaces... But one of the big goals is to take Wear Your Label from this "First World problem" brand to an international player in the fight against stigma. As common as stigma is here, at least it's a conversation that's happening more and more, and access to services is slowly improving. In most places around the world, the stigma is so severe that there's zero discussion, zero services, and zero help for those who need it. The result is hard to comprehend. Mental illness is the largest group of disabilities worldwide, and yet so many cultures don't even acknowledge depression or schizophrenia as real things. In the future, we're planning partnerships with organizations in some of these countries to help bring conversations around mental health to light in a positive, educational way. But for now, we still have a lot of work to do here at home.
What has been your most memorable or favourite moment so far?
Showing at New York Fashion Week was pretty spectacular. I think I cried for 20 minutes after it ended because I just couldn't believe everything came together in such a meaningful way.
More recently, we had a strategic planning session with our mentors at the beginning of May to talk long-term, and just realizing the amount of support, and talented people behind us, who are all in, means the world. I've never been so confident that is just the beginning.
WYL: What are you inspired by? Who has been your biggest influence?
When I was younger, I was hugely inspired by Craig Kielburger. I volunteered and raised money for Free the Children, and thought that Me to We - combining business and giving back - was just brilliant. Now, I've spoken at two We Days and it's kind of come full circle.
But, I don't know if one person has been a major influence...rather every single person I work with, and have surrounded myself with personally, has shaped who I am and how I view things. I've honestly met the most amazing people through Wear Your Label, and I feel grateful every single day. My family, friends, teachers, Kyle, our team and mentors. I can't do it without them.
Dog or cat?
Both!! But really - sloth... All the animals!
Of all time - Mr. Brightside by the Killers. Right now, White Iverson by Post Malone or Anything by Hedley (I've been listening to them nonstop since our collab!)
Coffee or tea?
Morning: coffee. Before bed: tea.
Favourite piece from WYL?
The It's Okay Tanks and our gemstone bracelets. And the Self-Care Tips Pillow ❤
Photos by: Kelsey Schroeder