“From what I saw, I didn’t feel as though self-care and wellness were for me.”
Like many young twenty-something’s, Rachael Akhidenor was eager to explore the world of wellness to combat the stresses of entering the often daunting working world. It didn’t take long, though, for her to realise that as a person of colour, she was largely excluded from the conversations taking place in the industry. Fuelled by a desire to open up the dialogue, she founded Self Care™, a Melbourne-based label aimed at disrupting the country’s wellness and self-care industry by promoting and educating for those who are marginalised from the “traditional” image.
“I felt it was completely whitewashed,” Akhidenor tells marie claire. “Almost all the brands in the space depicted themselves as being reserved for the white, thin, female and privileged. Couple this with the fact that I was, more often than not, the only BIPOC in a yoga class or mediation studio, I decided to focus my efforts on bringing greater representation and diversity to the wellness industry.”
It was not simply the lack of diversity faced by people of colour that the brand is bringing light, but men and members of the LGBTQI+ community who are also being left aside, which many admit to finding the narrative “unrelatable and unapproachable.”
“It broke my heart to think that other POCs, men, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and other marginalised groups did not feel welcome in the space,” Akhidenore says. “Especially when the consequences are so grave, I knew this exclusionary image of wellness had to change. Unfortunately, this is reflected in the mental health statistics also. It’s no wonder the majority of people who participate in the industry are this singular look. It’s because they’ve been told, ‘you belong here’.”
The brands now signature slogan, Self Care™, is what Akhidenor has coined, ‘wearable activism’. Genderless and ethically made here in Australia, the Merch tee’s, along with considered content on their website and social media accounts, continue to invite all into the conversation around self-care and what it means to live well. They have also partnered with Lifeline Australia, donating $5 from every purchase to the organisation.
“What we wear makes a statement about ourselves and what we value,” she says. “I thought, how about we harness this concept to advocate for change. By wearing our Merch tee, with the word ‘Self Care’ emblazoned on the front, you are promoting self-care to anyone and everyone who sees you.”
“Our mission is still to promote self-care, but now, it’s about promoting self-care for all. It’s something I am so passionate about championing.”
And while the pandemic has disrupted many aspects of the fashion industry, the Self-Care team are preparing to release weekly written and video interviews with their diverse community. It will create a safe space where self-exploration, self-compassion and self-acceptance are not only encouraged, but championed.
“I’m really excited about this initiative, because I believe through the sharing stories we can foster greater compassion and acceptance, not only for others, but for ourselves. I am dedicated to building a community around the shared values of transparency, inclusivity, and self-exploration. I am creating the community I wish to see in the world. It’s exciting.”
There are two key focuses that Akhidenor believes will help shift the industry as we know it.
“This change needs to occur on two fronts. It’s about wellness and self-care businesses depicting greater diversity and representation. But it’s also about you, the community, who are affirming and supporting white-washed wellness brands. Through dollars, clicks, follows and likes, the community can require change in the industry and hold brands and businesses to account.
As for what the future holds, the founder hopes that inclusivity in the world of wellness becomes the “norm.”
“It’s Self-Care’s mission to promote and educate on self-care for all. But even greater than that, I hope it champions self-exploration, self-inquiry and self-care such that it becomes the norm for all to engage in. I hope it creates a community of compassionate and open human beings. And finally, I hope the brand disrupts the current image of wellness. It needs to be changed. And I think that with more and more people seeing and talking about diversity and representation in wellness, it will be.”