Around this time last year, Melbourne-based Rachael Akhidenor was talking with a friend about her plans for 2018. She mentioned that she wanted to make her self-care practice stronger.

“My friend stopped me and said, ‘Wait, what’s self care?’” says Akhidenor.

This statement surprised her. Akhidenor had long been familiar with the concept, having already spent years establishing her own self-care practice to manage clinically diagnosed anxiety. “But that conversation made me realise so many people don’t even know what that concept is.”

Self-care refers to any act done in the service of deliberately looking after one’s mental, emotional or physical health. It includes everything from going for a run to taking a nap to practising mindfulness. Wanting to educate others on the topic, Akhidenor began work on a creative project to raise awareness, and her fashion label Self Care launched less than a year later. The range of clothing is designed to promote mental health and includes playful silk scarves, vibrant T-shirts and branded socks all emblazoned with the words “self-care”. (On Self Care’s website, the label is described as “wearable activism”.)

Cropped tees come in bold, clashing colours (bright blue and yellow; purple and orange) and feature the Self Care logo in enlarged typeface: they demand attention. White ankle socks are accented with the label’s name too, and retro silk scarves and long-sleeved tees are also printed with affirmations such as “relax and stay well” or “call 1800-relax today”. Each piece is made locally and sourced from Ethical Clothing Australia-accredited suppliers.

“The whole aim – the mission for me – is to make self-care mainstream,” says Akhidenor. “I want it to be in your face … I want to be able to say it to anyone and they’re like, ‘Yep, awesome. I understand what that means, I have my own self-care practice’.”

Akhidenor’s self-care routine includes regular exercise, journaling, meditation, yoga, acupuncture and reiki (a Japanese alternative-healing therapy).

For those who want to begin their own self-care practice Akhidenor recommends starting small. “It’s like exercise – it’s all about consistency.”

Akhidenor uses Instagram and a blog on the Self Care website to introduce the concept of self-care to people who may not be familiar with the term, and to encourage others to deepen their practice.

“I want to attract people who wouldn’t ordinarily go to yoga studios and meditation studios and crystal shops,” she says.

It’s been little over a month since Akhidenor launched Self Care and she’s already nearly sold out of the first run of T-shirts. There are plans to introduce menswear and possibly journals, crystals and essential oils. But the primary goal is to encourage people to develop their own self-care practice – there’s no shortcut to wellbeing.

“As human beings we are quite reductionist, so it seems that you can ‘do yoga’ and you will be ‘well’,” she says. “I remember one year I was so anxious that I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t get out of bed; I couldn’t go to class. It was debilitating.

“I’ve now come out the other side, but it’s not like I’m cured. It’s a practice. I can recognise when I’m anxious and do XYZ to recover.”