Designing acts of kindness

Lachlan Brett is on a mission of kindness.

Raised to “always look after others,” the 23-year-old founder of Acts of Kindness Apparel is passionate about supporting people’s mental health.

There has not been one life-defining moment to his sense of purpose, rather a long-time empathy for people struggling with varying degrees of hardship.

“I think everyone struggles with [poor] mental health of some sort at some stage in their lives,” Lachlan said.

“I’ve felt depressed a few times, and I’ve always been around people who have struggled with mental health.”

Shaping Lachlan’s desire to help others is seeing the broad spectrum of poor mental health which impacts some people at fleeting moments in life, or as a long-term reality for others.

On the most poignant end of the scale, Lachlan has shared the heartache of family friends who lost a loved one to suicide.

While on another level, he often felt compelled to support the mental health of students in the school yard, even if he’d never met them.

“If I was in Year 10, and there was someone getting picked on in the Year 7 side of the school, I’d be straight over there and saying ‘Hang on a second, what are you doing?’

“I’ve always had a passion for helping people, that’s basically what I’ve wanted to do my whole life,” Lachlan said.

The Shepparton graphic design student melded his values and creative talent in December, 2019 when at 22 he launched Acts of Kindness Apparel, also known as AOK Apparel.

Marketed as “apparel with a purpose”, the brand pledges to donate 20 per cent of its proceeds every three months to a different mental health or suicide prevention awareness association in the Goulburn Valley.

“There are a few meanings behind AOK,” Lachlan said.

“By buying and wearing AOK Apparel, people are showing an act of kindness.

“We show an act of kindness by passing back 20 per cent of the proceeds [to a mental health organisation].

“By wearing it, you are showing you want people to be AOK [A-okay], and people walking past will understand.”

The dual use of the acronym AOK – Acts of Kindness and A-Okay – fits perfectly with the ethos of Lachlan’s business venture. His website states the business mission as follows:

“Creating a safe space for someone to open up about their mental health journey is exactly what we want AOK Apparel to stand for.

“Wearing AOK can be a conversation piece and/or recognition of mental health awareness.

“It is our way of showing support for those who may be in times of need, and might just need a little Act of Kindness.”

The AOK Apparel collection includes men’s and women’s T-shirts, hoodies, caps and beanies; and jet tags, lapel pins and stickers.

The label is available online and in-store from Fyre Shepparton Store in the Maude St Mall, and has been supported locally as well as receiving orders from NSW.

“It has grown quicker than expected, which has been fantastic,” Lachlan said.

It was a proud moment for Lachlan and his supporters when AOK Apparel presented its first donation of $322.05 to Headspace Shepparton, followed by the second quarter donation of $553.50 to Diversity Project Greater Shepparton, and third quarter donation of $184.05 to R U Ok Day .

“COVID-19 made it a bit difficult to contact organisations and slowed down the timing of making our first donation,” Lachlan said.

“Our second donation was bigger, largely thanks to The Butter Factory in Shepparton adopting our label for their work uniforms. The AOK label is on one side of their shirts, and The Butter Factory logo on the other side.”

Lachlan said AOK Apparel’s philanthropy will be aimed at a diverse range of organisations that support mental health, and 10 months into the initiative he is already organising the donation recipient for the fourth AOK period of the year (October to December).

“We all know someone who has, or is struggling with mental health, and we all know how big of an impact it has on today’s society,” Lachlan said.

“If someone is walking down the street and they see the AOK label, I want to give that person hope; to show that another person understands what they are going through.”

Lachlan said his partner Alison White had been “a wonderful support” in helping him launch, label with hand-cut tags, and supply the brand.

The pair were in the same cohort at Shepparton’s Notre Dame College – where Lachlan was vice-captain – and started dating in their early twenties when Lachlan was still trying to figure out his career path.

He had already worked in hospitality, landscaping, building roof trusses and contemplated veterinary nursing when Alison “dragged” Lachlan to a GOTAFE open day, where he gravitated towards graphic design courses.

“It brought me back to subjects I enjoyed at secondary school,” Lachlan said.

Soon after starting the course, he had another lightening bulb moment: merging his teenage dream to design a clothing brand with his desire to help people in need – and AOK Apparel was born.

“I wanted to create a physical thing that could support people, and this was a way of putting all my ideas together,” Lachlan said.

While still a full-time student, Lachlan refers to AOK Apparel as “a passion project” but plans to grow the business and its acts of kindness after his tertiary studies.

“It’s really inspiring to see Lachlan find his niche,” Alison said.

“I’m just really proud of how far he has come in such a short time.”

AOK Apparel can be viewed and purchased at or in-store at Fyre Shepparton Store, 200 Maude St, Shepparton. Follow AOK Apparel on Facebook and Instagram.

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