‘Self Care’ Is Ethical Clothing That Wants You To Love Yourself

“Engaging in a self-care practice teaches us to be strong in our power, and to honour our emotions. We learn that we are worthy to take up space.”

Self-care is very popular right now. You might have noticed because of that one time you spent half of your rent money on sheet masks infused with the blood of Christ, fully believing that it would solve all of your problems. Rachael Akhidenor noticed this movement too, or in fact she is one of its drivers. And, don’t worry, she knows that self-care means more than wearing moisturiser and drinking water before bed — though being nice to yourself in that way is very important and, trust us, we know that drinking one cup of water is sometimes a huge feat.

But, more on Rachael pls! Rachael has single handedly created an apparel line with the sole intention of reminding people to really look after themselves. It’s called Self Care and she calls it “wearable activism” because “what we wear makes a statement, whether we are conscious of it or not.” True and smart!

We had a chat with Rachael to find out what self-care really means to her, how she deals with crap times, how she lets the good times role, as well as the ins and outs and coming soons of her very clever label (which you can peep in the gallery above).

Hi! So, your mission is to make self-care mainstream. Can you tell me what self-care means to you? And how it’s more than just face masks?
For me, self-care is the honouring, nurturing, and nourishing of our whole self – the mental, physical, and spiritual body. It’s about coming into relationship with ourselves. This supports, and is often a catalyst, for self-love, self-acceptance, and self-compassion.

I believe self-care is not found in any one activity. For some, it’s face-masks and painting; for others, it’s dancing around to music, and journalling. It’s not so much the activity itself. Rather, it’s the intention brought to that activity; an intention to explore and get to know ourselves. Self-care and self-exploration are inextricably linked.

Self-care is a particularly important message for minorities — I’m sure you’re familiar with Audre Lorde’s writing on it. Can you comment on that?
This is something that really resonates with me, being a minority myself. My Father is Nigerian and my Mother is Greek. I am a mixed race woman who grew up in Australia.

Self-care is important for all, but there’s no denying the benefits it can have for those who feel oppressed and those who don’t feel seen or heard. Engaging in a self-care practice teaches us to be strong in our power, and to honour our emotions. We learn that we are worthy to take up space. This will have flow-on effects, in our communities, workplaces, and homes.

Some have told me that what I’m doing is trivial. I’ve been questioned as to how I possibly think selling t-shirts could make an impact on self-care and mental health awareness. It’s interesting how these queries and doubts have come from predominantly white cis-men…

My answer is always, that I think there is value in sharing this message. And there is value in me sharing this message, being a woman of mixed-race. It holds so much value because it debunks the misguided perception that self-care and wellness are for the white, privileged few.

Was there a definitive moment where you sort of looked at yourself and decided you needed to take care of you?
I’ve always been intrigued by the human condition. I’m very self-analytical. I remember, my fourth-grade teacher told my Mother, ‘Rachael is very intelligent. But with that can come, an over-sensitivity to the world around her.’

I think this is common among many intelligent, creative people. Our mind allows us to see the world such a unique way; and yet, it’s that sensitivity that can cause us so much pain.

The turning point, however, was during law school. It was my third year. The pressure just became too much. Most of that pressure was internally driven like it is for many people who experience anxiety.

During that period, it felt like my mind had completely lost control of itself. It was running continuously, with no off-switch. I was brought to knees, quite literally. I couldn’t get out of bed. The world was overwhelming.

With the help of a psychologist, a devoted yoga and meditation practice, and an innate desire to come back to myself, I realised that the way I’d been living was no longer working for me. I couldn’t live with a disregard for my mental and spiritual wellbeing.

What kinds of things, routines, gestures, do you do to make sure you’re in top condition?
My self-care practice is fluid, and constantly evolving. Whatever I am doing, I make sure that I take inventory, and check-in after a week or month, to ensure that it’s having the effects I’m wanting it to have. I think this is crucial and often overlooked.

My bread-and-butter is morning meditation, journalling and sleep. Without these, I don’t feel like myself. Sprinkled on top of that are a variety of practices that I pick and choose depending on how I’m feeling during that moon cycle or season.

Currently, my practice involves yoga, acupuncture, and Reiki. In the past it’s been bathing rituals, working with crystals and essential oils, or talking it out with my psychologist.

How do you free yourself from a funk when you find yourself not being kind to you?
Firstly, this happens to me often! I think it does for so many people because it’s so ingrained in us to think that way. I find that simply acknowledging this calms me immediately.

The first thing I do is write. Putting to words what I’m thinking is so therapeutic for me. Often, I’ll read it back, and I’ll realise how comical and ridiculous I was being.

Then, I like to follow it with an act of self-love. This depends on the situation. If I’ve had a really off-day, this could mean cancelling all my plans for the evening or a few evenings, and just being kind to myself – draw a bath, not go to yoga, binge-watch Netflix, go to bed early.

Other times, it’s simply writing a list of things I’m grateful for. Often, I’ll do this in my head. I find that saying thanks completely changes my outlook, almost instantly.

Tell me about your apparel! Has making it and using it to spread to good word been therapeutic for you?
It has been a learning curve. I think when starting any new project, there’s always an adjustment period. In saying this, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It brings me so much joy.

Getting feedback is my favourite. When I hear about the conversations that started after someone wore one of our tops or was sparked in response to an interview on our Journal, it’s honestly so heartwarming.

And it’s all ethically made, right? What does this mean and why is it important for you?
Yes, everything we sell is ethically made here in Australia. It was a non-negotiable for me. I’m a minimalist at heart. I wanted to create products that had a ripple effect, with many benefits. When people buy our products, they are supporting local and ethical manufacturers. They are promoting the concept of self-care. They are creating conversation. With the world’s increasing interest in sustainability and minimalism, I think this is the future of fashion.

Do you work with anyone to make it all happen? Or is it all you?
In the beginning, it was predominantly created and run by myself. But when the university semester started again – I am studying Commerce/Law, and a Diploma of Languages (Mandarin) – this changed considerably.

I now have an incredibly talented and creative team of two. Both are women who I look up to a lot; they are my best friends. It’s a really beautiful synergy. They have helped me push boundaries and take the vision of the brand even further.

The price point is pretty fair — was making it accessible a priority?
Definitely. I wanted the price to reflect our ethos – that self-care is for all.

You call the product ‘wearable activism’ — can you explain what this means and how it works?
When this brand was in its inception, the social landscape was very different. Not many people even knew the word ‘self-care’; let alone what it meant. Brand names are so deeply ingrained in our minds because we see them so often. So I figured, why not call the brand ‘Self Care’. By simply being a brand name, this word would become more familiar.

The naming of the brand was important because it helped me develop this concept of ‘wearable activism’. What we wear makes a statement, whether we are conscious of it or not. I had seen at university a woman holding a black tote bag with the words ‘Indigenous Rights’ in bold red. It was like a lightbulb went off in my mind. She was making a clear statement about who she was and what she stood for through her clothes. That for me is ‘wearable activism’.

This was the catalyst for the brand. It underlies everything we do. We aren’t just a clothing brand. Our products transform the wearer into a promoter of all things ‘self-care’.

Finally — you’ve done tees, scarves and socks… what are you working on next?
T-shirts and self-care products for all! It goes without saying – self-care isn’t only for those who identify as women. It’s beneficial for everyone – men, trans, and those who don’t conform to the gender binary. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while; I’m really excited to see how it will be received.

Images: Courtesy of Rachael Akhidenor