Nfld. & Labrador

Clothing line founder hopes to keep mental health awareness in fashion … literally

One woman is fighting the stigma around mental health issues and giving back to the community through her clothing line, Display Rules.

Display Rules encourages positive attitudes towards mental health through its products

Jennifer O'Quinn, owner and founder of Display Rules, says mental health is an issue close to her heart. (CBC)

A St. John's woman is making sure that discussing mental health stays in fashion through her specialty clothing line.

Jennifer O'Quinn, owner and founder of Display Rules, started an online-only clothing line in February but it's already now in three different clothing stores across the province.

"Every shirt is a little bit light-hearted, maybe a little punny, to try and make mental illness something easier to talk about. To start those positive conversations and hopefully stop the stigma," O'Quinn said.

Display Rules uses memorable slogans and eye-catching designs on its clothing and accessories to make sure the public conversation around mental health remains stylish, she said.

As someone who has battled depression throughout the years, O'Quinn says it's a cause close to her heart. She plans to donate 20 per cent of the company's profits to mental health organizations in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This play on words is Display Rules's most popular t-shirt design. (CBC)
Mental illness doesn't need to be this scary thing that we whisper about.- Jennifer O'Quinn

The name Display Rules comes from a term used in psychology to describe culturally or socially enforced rules that dictate how individuals should express themselves.

"In North America it's things like 'men don't cry' or 'you don't show your emotions at work,' that type of thing," O'Quinn said.

"So suppressing your emotions and trying to follow this set of rules can often cause a lot of anxiety or depression in a lot of people."

O'Quinn hopes her products will encourage people to speak up about what they're really feeling. The speaker in the logo of the company is intended to represent the importance of doing so.

"Mental illness doesn't need to be this scary thing that we whisper about. It can be something we talk to our friends and family about," O'Quinn said.

O'Quinn plans to donate 20 per cent of the company's profits to mental health organizations.

O'Quinn isn't trying to get in anyone's face with her designs, she believes to do so would be counterproductive. She'd rather encourage healthy discussion by making the topic as palatable as possible.

"By no means do I want to offend anybody, but I want them {mental illnesses} to be easier to talk about," O'Quinn said.

Her philosophy seems to be paying off, as Display Rules products are carried at two St. John's locations, Twisted Sister and Unicornio, as well as in Stephenville at Coast Clothing.

Display rules has also been known to pop up at various markets across the capital city.

The company's first donation will be given to a mental health organization somewhere on Newfoundland's west coast. O'Quinn plans to announce the specifics once all the details have been hammered out.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Kate McGillivray.

About the Author

Stephen Miller is a contributor to CBC News in St. John's. You can reach him by email at stephen.miller@cbc.ca