Ethical Merch Promoting the Concept of Self-Care

In school we multiplied numbers, read the work of Shakespeare, and grappled with the periodic table. The curriculum didn’t leave much room for the study of oneself. This lack of an emotional education has left us as a generation having to largely teach ourselves matters of mental and emotional health. And we’re hungry for knowledge in the subject: self-help books consistently nudge their way into best-seller lists; the Headspace app has close to 40 million downloads; and the self-improvement industry is thought to be worth $11 billion.

Rachael Akhidenor is the founder of Self Care, a Melbourne-based brand which is all about increasing awareness and recognition of the practice, further propelling it into common parlance. With a range of ‘merch’ t-shirts that proudly proclaim the words, it’s also about removing any negative stereotypes and stigmas—because after all, it’s cool to care. We caught up with Akhidenor about the label’s aims and ethics.

How was the idea for Self Care born?
It started with a conversation I had with a girlfriend a few years ago. I told her I was really intent on focusing more heavily on my own self-care, and I was met with a look of confusion. I distinctly remember her asking, ‘Do you mean going to the gym more?’ I was bewildered that she hadn’t heard of ‘self-care’, or knew what it meant. As a result of my work as a freelancer for clients in the health and wellness industry, as well as my own struggles with anxiety, I was heavily attuned to all things self-care. And, perhaps, quite naïve as to how little other people knew about it. This was a time when self-care was neither ‘cool’ nor ‘trendy’.

So is the aim of the brand to increase awareness around the concept of self-care?
The aim has always been to promote and educate on self-care; to make looking after ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually as normal as brushing our teeth or going to the gym. We currently do this through our ethically made t-shirts and the content we produce. We’re also working on with psychologist to develop our first self-care product, which will launch this year. Being able to provide tangible tools to further one’s practice is something I’m really excited about.

What does the concept of self-care mean to you personally?
For me, self-care is taking care of one’s physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. It’s essentially a holistic approach to wellness. For me, it’s about rituals, practices, and thought patterns that help us live well. I think wellness is going through an interesting time. I see people who are the fittest, physically healthiest version of themselves who are entirely depleted spiritually or in a cycle of self-hatred and self-loathing. I think what it means to ‘live well’ is entirely individual. But for me, it’s definitely more focused on feeling emotionally unburdened, joyous, and grounded as opposed to drinking green juices and practicing yoga five times a week.

What’s been the biggest learning curve with the brand so far?
That things take time—and that everything will occur exactly when it’s meant to. I’ve always been a spiritual person, however, in building this brand, I’ve found myself increasingly lean into my spiritual beliefs. Never have I been so interested in finding omens, reading tarot, and manifesting before my shrine. There is a certain level of letting go and surrendering that I’ve had to accept in building this brand. It was a steep learning curve at the beginning—one that taught me lots about the power of patience and acceptance.

Can you talk a little bit about how the brand is sustainable and ethical in its production and manufacturing?
I love this question. I get asked a lot about what it means to be an ethical brand because I think there’s a lot of confusion out there as to what this entails. Basically, all our manufacturers have the Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) Accreditation. This is a voluntary accreditation that ensures transparency and legality of supply chains. Among other things, this means that all our manufacturers pay their workers fairly and appropriately. They receive all their legal minimum entitlements and are working in safe conditions. Everything from our t-shirts to our clothing tags have been ethically made here in Australia.

Can you leave us with a self-care tip?
Thank yourself for getting through each day. Life is hard sometimes. There are so many ups and downs, and unexpected turns. Regardless if you went to that yoga class or found five minutes to meditate, just getting through the day is something to be proud of. Remind yourself of that. In my opinion, it’s small actions like this that truly sow the seeds of self-love.

You can follow Self Care on Instagram and find out more about them here. Photography supplied by Self Care and words by Really Well.