Pyjamas and Mental Health at Mini Cannes

As the days get shorter Jess Lourenco, a designer at Realise, reflects on this summer’s Mini Cannes and an important lesson about mental health (and pyjamas).

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Back in July, our design team attended the Mini Cannes hosted by Creative Social. This annual London event shares what went down at the Cannes Lions with those who didn’t get a chance to go. The event showcases inspirational talks from key players in the creative industry and a view from the jurors, as well as analysis and future trends from a selected panel.

There were six talks in total, each inspiring in different ways, from bravery in the world of advertising to the do’s and don’ts of submitting your work for an Innovation Lions award. However, one talk from Michelle Morgan caught my attention in a special way. Not only because the speaker was rocking some amazing pyjamas (not joking) but also because of the subject itself. 

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Michelle founded Livity (cool website, by the way) fifteen years ago: a youth-led creative network and marketing agency with the aim of helping young people change the world. She spoke about how her business started and how fulfilled and proud she felt to create something driven by such a great purpose.

There were ups and downs like in every business, but in 2016 Livity received massive investment funding to facilitate the agency’s growth. In theory this should have been - and it was - a great thing. However, this funding and growth turned out to be the tipping point for Michelle. In the beginning it was exciting, but as the extra pressure and stress built up she developed a permanent headache that sapped her energy. She decided that, after the deal was closed, she would take a break and look after herself. However, she burned out both mentally and physically before she had the chance.

When describing this moment, she compared life to a backpack of bricks, each brick representing the challenges we face in life. Usually, we tend to get on without realising the load on our backs. But when the weight becomes noticeable, it can be a bit too late. I’m sure all of us have noticed a ‘heavier backpack’ at certain moments through life. That’s why we (should) find ways to take off the weight by doing whatever makes us happy, like sports, Netflix binge watching (guilty as charged!), going out with friends, gardening, etc. However, Michelle had stopped taking care of herself. When faced with a series of physical health issues combined with the mental stress of growing Livity, she burned out. There were too many bricks!

As Michelle took time off to recover, she soon noticed that it was easier for people at work to talk about the physical aspects of her burnout than the mental aspects. It was clear evidence of the stigma and day-to-day difficulties we have talking about our mental health, especially in the workplace.

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During her recovery, Michelle realised that her creativity had suffered and that she needed a big change to get it back. So, as she dug deep to rediscover her creativity, she started playing with the thought that if she did it all over again what would she do. Slowly she realised she wanted to create another purpose-led business, something she loved and was passionate about. She loved art and working with artists, however, she had been supporting artists for the past 16 years. How could this new idea be different?

For Michelle, inspiration came in the shape of the pyjamas her husband had bought her for Christmas. She realised that there are two different kinds of pyjama days – the happy ones: spent with your family or friends, watching a movie, reading a book. And the not so happy ones: when you can’t even get out of bed let alone get out of the house. Michelle said that “slowly, the PJs that were representing all the barriers in front of me, stopping me from moving forward, became my inspiration.”

That’s when Michelle came up with her big idea: make and deliver pyjamas to spark conversations about mental health. She worked with artists to design her pyjamas, create packaging and labelling, and build an online platform to share stories about mental health – this was when PJoys were born.

Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety can compromise motivation and block creativity. PJoys encourages people in every industry to have every day conversations about mental health. Through her beautiful pyjamas, Michelle wants to make talking about mental illness as easy as “talking about what you had for dinner last night, what your favourite boxset is or what you love about your favourite PJs!”