As we celebrate our 2nd *official* birthday, our co-founder & CEO, Kayley, shares insights from the past two years building Wear Your Label.
Two years ago, I was a completely different person. I had developed an eating disorder, and was battling inner demons on the daily. The best way I can describe my mental illness, is with this quote:
"It's like fighting a war in which the opponents strategy is to convince you that the war isn't happening."
It took a long time, a lot of work, and a great support system, before I really began to see myself as separate from my illness: it did not define me. When my friend, Kyle, suggested that we start a clothing line to help people take ownership over their mental illness - to effectively "wear their label" - I was hooked. What started as a side project in school, soon developed to be something way bigger than either of us could have imagined (and way more developed than our original idea). We went from screenprinting until 1 am, to shipping orders out to 35+ countries around the world. We were two kids who didn't really know what they were doing, other than that it meant something to a lot of people. When we got featured on Buzzfeed (and MTV, Today, People, etc...) our lives changed, forever.
I consistently had 200 unread emails, partnerships and projects lined up for months, and the task of finding new manufacturing partners (because we were way over our head doing it ourselves). I think at the time it was both a blessing, and a curse, because people thought we were way bigger than we actually were. But it was only ever just Kyle and I, and a couple interns. Sometimes I still don't know how we managed.
When we debut at New York Fashion Week in the fall of 2015, it was an absolute dream. Never in my life would I ever imagined hitting that milestone. I vividly remember the end of the show, walking out, and then crying for 20 minutes backstage because it was so surreal.
As 2015 wrapped up, we began two big partnerships: RBC and Joe Fresh. I was asked to speak at We Day (a dream of mine since being a student in the We Day audience 5 years ago). Our story aired on TV for a month. We did a collab video with Jacob Hoggard of Hedley (whose music got me through high school). And we launched a cross-Canada event series with Joe Fresh, raising $25,000 for Mental Health Month in May. It's been incredible. And it's been intense.
I often say that starting Wear Your Label is both the best and worst thing I've ever done for my mental health.
The best, because we've built this amazing community that reminds me daily that I'm not alone. The best, because I hear stories every day - online, and in person - from people who feel inspired by our stories or our products, and are choosing recovery, or choosing to talk about it. The best, because I have met the most amazing, caring, passionate people who have supported me, and Wear Your Label, since day one. The best, because after years of being insecure and unconfident, I finally learned to love myself.
But building Wear Your Label has also been one of the worst things for my mental health, because building a business is really damn hard. And it's something nobody really talks about when you're starting out. Despite recovering from my mental illness, the stress and anxiety from leading something that was growing more quickly than I could manage it is at times extremely overwhelming. There have been days when I come home with tears in my eyes, and no energy to do anything but sleep. Startups are incredibly exhausting, and unpredictable. But, over the past two years, I have learned two things:
1) Self-care isn't selfish.
2) It's okay not to be okay.
It's quite nostalgic to look back over the past two years and see how far things have come. Looking forward gives a sigh of relief. There is so much good to come, and so much growth left for the mental health movement - Wear Your Label is but one small piece of the puzzle. We have some big changes coming, and a big vision for the future. If you're still reading this, I want to say thank-you again, from the bottom of my heart, for sticking with us and supporting us. We wouldn't be here without you. Now, for the next chapter.
Stay strong friends,
Co-Founder & CEO
Wear Your Label