In 2018, it feels like everyone is talking about Mental Health, as a person with severe mental illness myself, I dont feel the benefits of this new wave of awareness and acceptance out in the real world. Stigma is still very alive and well, you only have to look at a comments sections to see peoples attitudes on the subject. It’s one thing to be able to speak about mental health anomalously online, but’s it’s another to face your demons while you carrying out your daily routine. To live with a mental illness can be one the most loneliest and isolating times in a persons life, with 1 in 4 suffering from a mental illness, so many are losing their lives to suicide, and lets not forget, everyone has mental health. As a fashion brand, I felt it was important to explain our take on Mental Illness and how we will be approaching our clothing designs.
Mental Illness is an serious epidemic. Its not a fad. Its not a Halloween theme. Its not a fashion trend. It demands respect, understanding and sensitivity.
I started raising awareness about Mental Health several years ago as i just couldn’t stay quite anymore, the positive response i recieved from AMHA gave me the want to take what i learned and put it into a new clothing brand, something ive wanted to do for many years. WhatLabel has been a culmination of real life experience having struggled with various Mental illnesses, physical disabilities and Autism, combined with skills ive had to acquire, and the development of ideas and resources i didnt have access to 10 years ago. When I finally launched Whatlabel earlier this year, at first glance, it felt like we were a little late to the party, there are quite a few amazing brands with their own take on Mental Health awareness clothing and accessories, great examples like Fandabby and Schizophrenic.nyc. There are some very unique custom made accessories on Etsy by some inspirational people. What I didn’t expect was to find hundreds of sellers using platforms like eBay, Amazon, Zazzle and Etsy to sell bulk brought AliExpress designs, created without absolutely no thought, with poor quality tacky cliche designs, some of the slogans are actually doing the opposite of raising awareness. It feels like Mental Health has become this glamorous illness to cash in on or a fashion trend for Instagram.
I didnt open up about my Mental Health so someone can cash in and create tacky products, trying to make light of depression or anxiety on a cheap see-through t-shirt that will last a wash before its out of shape and faded. There is nothing funny or quirky about Mental Illness, I dont want to see clothing or accessories with eat less, or depression slapped all over an all in one print. The irony is the same websites selling these products are also selling mental health themed Halloween costumes.
I want WhatLabel to be very different, I didnt design WhatLabel to be a competing brand against other amazing clothing lines promoting awareness and acceptance, if anything i want to promote what they do also. Whatlabel is not here to cash in or turn it into a trend. A lot of time, effort, money, and thought has been put into the branding of WhatLabel including how we advertise so it complements the work ive been doing in raising awareness around Autism and Mental health.
Every product we make will be printed on quality materials, with a unified brand that can be identified, I wanted to take Mental Illness which has taken so from so many lives inducing my own and my family, and change the narrative around it and end the current stigma by using Whatlabel to promote wellness instead of illness while promoting encouraging messages and recovery, and on occasion some real truths about have Mental Illnesses. I want those struggling out in the real world trying to get on with their daily routine to see our designs and feel like they are not alone.
Its still early days, but we hope is to be able to offer all kinds of products and designs, all inspired by our small community over at AMHA, while promoting inspirational people at the same time. We will be focusing on three areas including Autism and Physical Disabilities in 2019-2020, my take on each area will be different for each as i wont approach Autism like i do Mental health. Thought needs to be taken when designing graphics for clothing, its not a slap dash job, regurgitating another other used social media gif graphic.
I hope we can do Mental Health Awareness justice as at the end of the day, I just want to highlight the struggles of others and raise a little awareness and acceptance while at the same time raise some funding to help charities and projects continue their hard work supporting vulnerable children, families and adults at a time when services are being cut, funding is drying up and people are being left with no support.