Post 4: The DEFINE Project

By Yu Zhang


In Canada, 50% of people who have depression or anxiety, 10 % of people who have mood disorders, and 20% of deaths are suicide from 15-25 years olds people. These data brings a signal that mental illness in Canada is being a serious problem.

The DEFINE project is a collaboration between Lance Kenneth Blakney as a photographer, Wear Your Label as a clothing company, and Dee Wilkie as a surface designer who are concentrated in mental illness by showing the side of people who have serious mental health problem.They collect over 200 Role Models who has been struggling with mental health from Canada and narrowed it down to nine categories that can represent the side of mental illness effectively.

The idea of this project is to create a raw, conceptual photo series that would share the stories of 9 Role Models and how they experienced mental health issues. Basically, Dee developed hand-dyed silk pieces and each of them has different colour and texture to represents nine different mental illness. These mental illness are Addictions, ADHD, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders, PTSD, Self-Injury and Survivors of Sexual Assault.

Emma is representing the category of Addictions (Blakney, Wilkie &Wear Your Label, 2016).

Emma starts struggling with anxiety and depression since age of 8, and it becomes self-harm like addicting alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. She describes her life of being addictions is crippling, but now she starts to move a step forward to become happy and healthy. The pattern of silk pieces covering Emma’s body as trying to protect her-selves instead of self-harm. It expresses the experience about think how far you through make you more happy and healthy rather than in addictions.

Cassie is representing the category of Sexual Assault (Blakney, Wilkie &Wear Your Label, 2016).

Cassie express her experience with a word  as ‘fear’ after being sexual assault. She fears about how’s her friend react, fears how do people look at her, fear people knew her secret etc. The silk pieces cover Cassie’s face as stop her to look back the past and stay focus on the colour of the silk pieces, which looks beautiful and it represents tomorrow.

Danika is representing the category of Self Harm (Blakney, Wilkie &Wear Your Label, 2016).

Danika experienced with abuse from family and being caught in the middle of a custody battle in her childhood, that brings Danika start self-injuring and even still deals with today. That’s why she describe her experience as ‘constant’. Danika’s silk pieces represent her depression and she wants to express that she’s still battle with it because she doesn’t want to be the previous situation anymore.

Lee is representing the category of ADHD (Blakney, Wilkie &Wear Your Label, 2016).

Lee has frustrating experience with ADHD and always doubt her-selves about some extreme behaviors. Her inspiration to join this project is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health by share her story. The silk pieces for Lee is surrounding her while hiding her eyes, it expresses Lee always pretending she doesn’t need help even she needs. So the colour of  silk pieces is quite bright to be obvious for audience to see you need help.

Chelsea is representing the category of Mood Disorder (Blakney, Wilkie &Wear Your Label, 2016).

Mercurial is the word that Chelsea use for her life, she mentioned external factors always affect her to change quickly when she wants to describe her feeling. The pattern of silk pieces are representing mood disorder and trying to disturb Chelsea’s brain. It express mood disorder is annoying but  can not stop you to do anything.

Carlena is representing the category of PTSD (Blakney, Wilkie &Wear Your Label, 2016).

Carlena diagnosed with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder since 5 years ago. It triggered by Carlena’s traumas from her childhood. She believes learn how to accept her mental illness rather than get away from it. Carlena’s silk pieces are totally black and acting like a devil behind her as representing PTSD. On the other hand, Carlena wants to express that mental illness might be painful and always be with you as like a devil always behind you, but the truth is you will get better with mental illness if you still alive.

Emma is representing the category of Personality Disorder (Blakney, Wilkie &Wear Your Label, 2016).

Emma was working under extreme pressure for competitive athlete while study at school with good grades. The pressure made Emma feel always not satisfy for what she did and start difficult to sleep until she diagnosed with Personality Disorder.Emma’s silk pieces integrated with black and white like an ink painting to surround her, which looks fantastic. The texture integrated effectively in a visual way that expresses her personality is magical and able to inspired people to do special thing, and every personality is pretty and unique as Emma’s.

Kathleen is representing the category of Anxiety (Blakney, Wilkie &Wear Your Label, 2016).

Kathleen diagnosed with a phobia and later on turned to Generalized Anxiety Disorder, she said she can live as normal person but always stuck in internal feeling. After she’s being helped by loved ones and psychologist, she starts getting better.Kathleen’s silk pieces are part of her thinking about she’s always getting batter, and the pattern of silk pieces is trying to protect Kathleen to concentrate getting better even she will slip back sometimes.

Jess is representing the category of Eating Disorder (Blakney, Wilkie &Wear Your Label, 2016).

Jess’s family has a long history of eating disorders. That’s why Jess use shame to describe her life because she always has to judge people if they looking at her strangely like think something wrong about her. Jess’s silk pieces like the part of her hair that express she’s strong and generous person rather than looks like a person with mental health. The pattern of silk pieces is developing an attractive place that integrated with Jess, to guide people can see her advantage.


Blakney, L.N., Wilkie, D. &Wear Your Label, 2016, The DEFINE Project, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.

Wear Your Label, 2016, The DEFINE Project, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.

Images Reference:

Blakney, L.N., Wilkie, D. &Wear Your Label, 2016, The DEFINE Project, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.

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