Kayley ReedWear Your Label
“It’s okay not to be okay.”
In the heart of downtown Fredericton, on the third floor of an unassuming brick building, you’ll find a clean and cozy office. Racks of clothes are carefully arranged around the space, each item bearing bold statements such as “anxious but courageous” and “self-care isn’t selfish”. The comfortable and relaxing atmosphere of this office belies the fact that it’s home to an international clothing company challenging social stigma and creating a global buzz. It is here that you can find Kayley Reed, CEO and co-founder of Wear Your Label.
Wear Your Label is a clothing company that creates conversations around mental health in order to end the stigma surrounding it. Their motto, “it’s okay not to be okay”, reflects Reed’s own battle with depression and an eating disorder. Frustrated with the lack of awareness and understanding that goes hand-in-hand with mental health, she started Wear Your Label with co-founder Kyle MacNevin as a project that would spark conversation and solidarity through clothes. Since that strike of inspiration, Wear Your Label has grown to serve an international customer base from their office in Fredericton.
“It was no question whether or not we would try and build it [in Fredericton] or elsewhere,” comments Reed. “It happened very organically.”
Reed came to Fredericton in order to attend the Renaissance College; from there, she went through the Summer Institute program, where she began Wear Your Label. While the Summer Institute put her on the right path from day one by providing a solid base, Reed knew she would need more sector specific mentorship and support. As the company began to grow, she attended the Joe Fresh Centre for Fashion Innovation in Toronto at Ryerson, where she was able to have her first real introduction to the fashion industry.
Reed had never originally intended to stay in Fredericton upon graduating from the college, but has since come to be grateful for the supportive entrepreneurial resources in the city.
“I’ve definitely come to appreciate the community here; all the organizations, small businesses, and entrepreneurs are doing so much to create an inclusive environment and help support other people,” says Reed.
“Fredericton is the right size to be a big fish in a small pond, so in a way that’s encouraging because if you make certain steps for growth, people notice, and we have that small interconnected community where everybody is congratulating each other and recognizing when something good happens to someone.”
As any startup knows, regardless of the amount of support you receive, businesses will always come across their share of obstacles. The first challenge for Wear Your Label was one of the most common problems- funding. By attending lots of networking events in Fredericton, Reed and MacNevin learned about Ignite Fredericton. A mere six months after launching, they received their first capital from Ignite.
“Ignite Fredericton acts as a milestone for a lot of small startups,” says Reed.
As for becoming an international company from Fredericton, Reed says the biggest asset was her and MacNevin’s storytelling ability and self-authenticity. Being based out of New Brunswick has also helped, as they could “really bootstrap” their business, while using technology, online connections, and networking through social media to build an international business.
While Wear Your Label continues to grow and create new opportunities and partnerships, Reed has already begun a new venture related to her business. Her own experiences will help guide her through the startup process again; certainly, the Fredericton community will be willing and able to help her through it all over again.
To find out more about Wear Your Label, head to wearyourlabel.com.