We're re-introducing the #WYLfamily, from co-founders to new interns. Starting with, where it all started. Kyle is the co-founder & Chief Stigma Officer at Wear Your Label. He lives with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, ADHD and Manic Depression. In the beginning, he was the one who screen printed every garment that got shipped out. Now, he leads product design and ideates new projects - like the With Love Campaign.
What were you doing before Wear Your Label? (Were you a different person?)
Before I met Kayley and before we started making mental health super-hero outfits, I worked for Picaroons Traditional Ales, a social enterprising brewery. I helped certify the company as a Benefit Corporation - it taught me a lot about being able to do social good through commerce.
Personally, I have experienced tremendous growth. Living with mental illness, I had maintained a lot of stigmas and judgements about myself and others. Yes, I was open about it, sensitive to mental illness but Wear Your Label has changed me to my core. I’ve really had a fundamental shift in character; on the basis of self perception and confidence in my interactions with others.
Wear Your Label has experienced exponential growth and press attention over the past year- what’s been your favourite accomplishment or moment?
I remember the day we went from 5 orders to 500 overnight last May. I remember being behind stage with Kayley at New York Fashion Week, trying to stop crying before press interviews. I remember meeting our Role Model Sarah Fisher for the first time and Kayley fangirling and pinching me cause I go ‘Hey Sarah!’
I remember it all; the days where we had no money, no idea what we were doing, just an idea. The good, the bad, the awesome, the ‘urghh fine Kayley!’. There is not one moment that stands out as my favourite. I smile every morning when I open my eyes because I love what I do, who I work with and the #wylfamily. I think for me, that’s the greatest feeling ever.
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
My Mom. My mom is the best. I know people always say that about their moms, but mine wins, sorry. Dr. Susan Reid raised my brother and I how to think with not just our minds but with our hearts. As a leading expert in her field of Criminology and Youth at Risk she always exposed us to diverse and enriching experiences. Generosity was a principal theme growing up; it has resonated with both Jordan and I. It continues to overflow in the work we do at Wear Your Label, the man I aim to become, and how I treat others.
Why is there still such a stigma around mental health? Or is there?
Stigma exists for various reasons. Unlike physical health, we cannot see mental health. People are visual learners; it’s lot easier to show someone an illness than describe it. Stigma most often happens without intention. Unlike other social taboo issues, I honestly believe that most people are not motivated by hate when they stigmatize people with mental illness. I think it’s a combination of lack of understanding and empathy. For instance we overuse the word ‘crazy’ in our daily language, and conversations. We constantly interchange that word not just based on human behaviour but also situational experiences; (last night was crazy…) If we can start looking at mental illness as a common, “lived with” characteristic rather than a curable disease, people can accept it as a part of the individual just like any other defining feature.
How have you gotten to where you are and what advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?
Find a partner. Moreover, find a Kayley. She makes working on WYL way easier. I think it is really important to find someone who is aligned with your core principles in business. I mean Kayley and I often butt heads, but we always have each other’s back. You don’t mess with us!
Favourite movie/tv series?
Coffee or tea?
Give us one word that best describes you.
What terrifies you?
Scary movies. I have a big imagination.
What motivates you?
Getting on the Ellen Show. Our publicist, Tiffany, gets weekly reminders!
Photos by Maya Sherwood Photography