Struggling with mental health is challenging. For those who are being treated in inpatient care facilities, the feeling of being “itemized” can often stifle the efforts to heal, according to Unfinished Apparel founder Lauren Hackett. By speaking with individuals who had been within these inpatient facilities or programs, Lauren saw a need to provide clothing that would make them feel like individuals instead of a “product.” In response, Lauren created a line of crewnecks with slogans like “normalize therapy” and “check on your friends.” For every crewneck purchased on Unfinished Apparel’s website, a portion of the proceeds contribute to sending a crewneck to a person being treated in an inpatient mental health facility.
As of now, Unfinished Apparel’s TikTok account has over 61.8 thousand followers and has amassed over 1.7 million likes. The account, run by Lauren herself, features insights into the creation of her clothing line and into her life as a CEO and college senior. Renewed Awareness had the opportunity to speak with Lauren about her mission, managing stress and online success, and self-care.
What inspired you to create a brand that gives back to patients in mental health facilities?
I started talking to some patients at psychiatric centers who had become outpatients. The most common struggles and complaints about their time as inpatients were that they felt itemized or felt like a product due to the clothing. Saying it was uncomfortable, or that it didn't represent who they were.
They felt confined to this mold of “I'm a psychiatric hospital patient.” And so I asked myself, “what if we could figure out a way to send those in treatment comfortable clothing that met standards of the psychiatric hospitals?”
So, what led you to take on this approach in such a hands-on sense? Do you have a background in fashion?
I have always loved fashion, I grew up watching every single season of Project Runway with my mom. Oh, my gosh, I loved it. And even though I didn't see myself as a fashion mogul or anything, I just always loved it.
I was an art student in high school. So I had some background in design. And being a marketing student, I've learned a bit about design. But it was honestly just a compilation of hobbies: embroidery and my love for fashion.
I'm starting to be able to work a little bit more on the design of the crewnecks themselves. I'm learning about the fashion role, too, and I am enjoying every minute of it.
Your brand gained traction on social media very quickly, and you are the face of your own brand online. Do you find it difficult to be seen as a regular human being because of the business aspect?
I think especially on social media, small businesses are kind of put in this box where some people expect the same from small businesses as corporate companies. That can be very, very difficult.
I have many messages on the website that say processing time is two to three weeks. And I get a message two days after some places that order and it's like, “where's my order?” and I'm like, “I haven't even begun to see your order yet.”
When you're making something by hand, you're sacrificing certain things to get better quality or to put love into a product.
Based on your TikTok, you are a college student and you run a business by yourself. How do you practice self-care?
It has not been easy. I'm actually a very big self-care person. Before the company, I would always take time for myself; I would always make time for a face mask, or reading a book, or something that was fulfilling to my soul. But since the company has started, and especially the past two months, it has been very, very difficult. I would look back at my week and think, “I haven't done a single thing for myself.”
One of the things that I started doing as of November was closing the rings on my Apple watch. It forced me to leave my apartment. That has actually made a difference, because I just started going on walks with friends of mine, and it would just allow me to creatively relax and do something for myself.
Lauren has managed to cultivate a highly successful online brand while maintaining her boundaries as a student, she says: “I am not going to sacrifice who I am, or my own health, or my GPA, or the people that I love to get an order done.” In an industry increasingly being held to the standards of large corporations like Amazon or “fast fashion” brands, Unfinished Apparel has managed to succeed while still operating within the limitations of a small, home-based company.
Lauren has plans to grow the company following the closure of her college career. Starting with implementing an application process for psychiatric hospitals to receive Unfinished’s donated crewnecks, moving into a larger office space, and bringing more people into the company. Lauren says that she “wants to establish a team that can help this community grow.” And if the community that she has already created online is any indication, we at Renewed Awareness are sure that she will be successful. Her work in establishing a company with limited resources and a big mission has made it clear: Lauren Hackett is Unfinished.
This article has been republished from Renewed Awareness Magazine.