Keep Real or “keepin’ it real” is a mantra that can be applied to everyone as they go about their daily lives. For Kimberley Robinson, it resonated on such a level she decided to create a lifestyle and wellbeing brand – promoting mental health and emotional wellbeing – from it.
The clothing and goods brand, Keep Real, has curated a range of items – unisex tees and sweatshirts, tote bags, notebooks, mindfulness colouring books and pencils all made using sustainable materials, where possible – that promotes “keepin’ it real”, which they sell via their website. As the brand states: “feel good inside and out, be kind to yourselves and approach the world with a keep real attitude”.
At the heart of this compassionate, motivational and consciously-aware brand is Kimberley Robinson. Keepin’ it real obviously comes natural to the articulate counselling therapy graduate, as she speaks passionately about the business she has created. It has not always been an easy journey for the Keep Real founder herself, but that is what makes Keep Real so appealing and likely to have such a far reach and impact on young people, not just in Yorkshire where she has set up the brand, but worldwide.
“Being a teenager is ridiculously hard!” she says. “It’s so important to start there and reduce that clinical feel of what mental health is, because we all experience it. We get tangled in every day life, and with the rise of social media – we’re comparing ourselves to others way more.”
Keep Real’s new website launched on 1 July. As well as selling clothing and products, Keep Real will also run a blog discussing mental health and wellbeing. While the brand itself, although not exclusively, targets young people, the blog is likely to have a cross appeal. “Folk who share our aim of spreading mental health awareness and being a community in Yorkshire, opening up about their own wellbeing is so important,” Kimberley Robinson adds.
Although the Keep Real online shop is in its infancy, the business itself has been operating for a number of years. Keep Real collaborated with the non-profit organisation, Heads Above The Waves, to produce a T-shirt, Love is the Flower, to encourage young people to discuss mental health issues.
Kimberley Robinson has made appearances on Radio 4 as a voice for teenage mental health. She has also written articles for various blogs which raise awareness of mental health. She also developed a colouring book with the Sheffield-based charity, The Golddigger Trust, who used the book as a tool in one of their mental health courses for young people.
Every iota of Keep Real has Kimberley Robinson’s energy, including the logos and artwork, reflecting her entrepreneurial, nurturing and creative spirit. She explains: “While I was at university doing my degree in counselling, I had an overwhelming passion for art and design. Most of the time scribbling in-between lecture time, that’s when I thought about combining my love for both art and mental health into one brand. I didn’t want to just talk about mental health, where waiting lists are far too long. I wanted to help people now and I wanted it to be visual – something young people can connect with.”
Keep Real’s logo is a wreath, which to Kimberley Robinson symbolises hope. “A wreath that never ends – so forever growing,” she adds. She has designed all the Keep Real products alongside her friend, Laura, who helped her turn her “sketch of a logo into a wonderful symbol of hope” while studying at university.
The brand will launch more products in the coming months, one of which will be a colouring book. For the colouring book, Keep Real collaborated with local artists and those who have personal experience of mental health issues. “It provides our people with real stories and connection to our brand,” Kimberley Robinson adds.
Part of Keep Real’s aim is to go into colleges and universities to discuss wellbeing with students. “That’s where I first experienced anxiety, not really knowing how to handle it as a student,” Kimberley Robinson says. “During education, it’s a pivotal time for young people to make choices and decisions which can feel overwhelming. When I developed anxiety through my teens, I didn’t really know how to manage it. I didn’t even know it was a mental health problem and put it down to just being that ‘awkward teen’. I sought counselling in my first year of University.”
It was mindfulness-based therapy with a person-centred approach that helped Kimberley Robinson deal with her own mental health issues, citing meditation and breathing techniques to be particularly helpful in countering anxiety. “Therapy was a turning point for me, as it helped to better understand where my anxiety was coming from; as well as ways to cope with it,” she says. “Meditation and breathing exercises helped me to overcome panic attacks – and it helps to this day.”
A person’s wellbeing has to be supported daily in everything one does. Kimberley Robinson is aware that her own wellbeing can “fluctuate”. “There’s good days and bad days,” she says. “It’s about coping with bad days in a positive and mindful way. Meditation helps, and when I’m on a commute to work – I practice my breathing and focus on the present. I tend to spiral into over-thinking and not switching off – so mindfulness helps me deal with every day life.”
The Keep Real founder is very honest and humble about sharing her personal experiences of therapy, which highlights her own integrity as a mental health and wellbeing advocate. “My experience of it when in therapy was the strangest thing at first,” she says. “I was extremely ignorant towards it, thinking it was something I couldn’t get in touch with. I felt too impatient, and distracted with my own thoughts to slow down and think of where I was sitting, the way that I breathe and what my body felt like in the moment. When I really got into it, I used to fall asleep some of the time because I was so relaxed. But it’s practice, and practice makes it easier to keep anxiety at bay.”
Keep Real aim to keep it real throughout the business, including sourcing manufacturers who are ethical and are conscious of their impact on the environment. “We’re still in our beginning stage of being responsible with what we produce; which can only lead to higher standards,” Kimberley Robinson adds. “Our ethos is to ‘keep real’; so why would we produce goods that aren’t as down to earth as we as a brand are aiming to be? Our packaging is also 100% recyclable and come from sustainable sources (FSC-certified) – so do our notebooks. It’s about being conscious, and that’s why it’s so important to the brand. We’re conscious about wellbeing, and the wellbeing of our planet is also something we hope to raise awareness of too.”
Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable lifestyle and living, wellbeing, music and arts. Rosalind also works as a counsellor, intuitive reader and spiritual life coach helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com