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Put in that [s]mileage

by | Apr 14, 2020

Wing and Alex standing back to back looking off into the distance, smiling.

Alex Hoerner and Wing Tse are passionate about young adult mental health. They are best friends and business partners, and together they have started [s]mileage, a clothing line and a movement to benefit mental health. They also partnered with Stella’s Place to support our Fitness and Wellness program with proceeds from their sales.

Wing and Alex walking down the street outside Stella's Place

“From the outside, I think it looks like I’m going to work and school and managing my busy life very well. But to me it feels like I’m always carrying an invisible backpack that I can never put down, filled with worries and stress about everything– about succeeding in school, my relationships, trouble in my family, about not having enough time for anything. Worries about money, about problems in the world, and about my future.”

Alex and Wing know what it’s like to struggle with mental health problems. They were there for each other during difficult times at their respective school and workplaces but also became keenly aware of the stigma that still surrounds mental health.

“I am in university right now, and I find that there aren’t many students who seek out the help necessary to overcome mental health barriers,” explains Alex. “I wanted to launch a clothing brand as a form of self expression. By wearing it, you are supporting the movement and mental health overall.”

“We both struggle with mental health,” adds Wing. “I was in firefighting and the military and right now I work in construction. In all of these career choices that I have made, there’s increased mental health stigma. As a firefighter and as a soldier you sort of have these social expectations to go through these really tough things and remain silent. Luckily I had Alex by my side during that time.”

“Having Alex there to talk with me through those challenges, and just having someone to lean on helps so much. And that’s why we chose Stella’s Place to partner with,” Wing explains, “we resonated with the peer-led, community based approach that Stella’s Place takes to mental health.”

Wing and Alex laughing and looking at each other sitting on bean bags in the Stella's Place cafe

“I believe in places like Stella’s Place that cater to those that are in that in-between stage of support. When people who are in need are put on a wait list, it gets worse and worse, and then sometimes it’s too late. Places like Stella’s Place are so vital. Letting people express themselves, being a part of this warm environment is amazing.”

Alex and Wing are both very physically active and love anything fitness. They believe that exercise is a great tool to support good mental health. That’s why they have chosen to support Stella’s Place fitness and wellness program with donations from each item of clothing that is sold. Their goal is to raise $5,000 for Stella’s Place this year.

So why [s]mileage? Wing, who has created most of the artwork for the designs says, “at the end of the day, you can ask yourself ‘how much [s]mileage’ did I put in? You can compare it to the speedometer of a car.”

On their website, he explains the story behind each shirt. This one seems particularly relevant right now during this time of Covid-19:


Photo of person from the neck down wearing white t-shirt with graphic of speedometer illustrated with Toronto buildings around and a red CN tower. Reads [Smile]age in black below

View the Collection Link to page

“If going through life could be represented as driving, society has done a great job of cultivating speed and hustle, and encouraging going pedal to the metal in competition to surpass others. Especially in the city, we tend to follow this norm and try to accelerate through life, enforcing the belief that slowing down is bad. Life moves at different paces. Be a good driver, slow down for curves and speed bumps life can throw at you. Be perceptive, considerate, and safe with others. Think about who is sitting in your vehicle as you cruise through life, as those who fill those seats are your close relationships. Pick who rides with you, party in your car, and #PutInThatSmileage.”

Alex is pleased with the response to [s]mileage: “Just through selling to people and talking about the brand itself, people have started opening up to me out of nowhere. They tell me things in their life because they know that I care, and for me that’s very meaningful. Just starting a conversation, I think that’s personally one of the best things for me.”

“Being vulnerable and opening up and sharing. Welcoming others to join. We have to start the movement.”

Alex and Wing sitting together on the couch in the Stella's Place cafe with a big tiled glass wall in the background

With the current outbreak of Covid-19 affecting many of our lives, the team has developed their own ways of coping, connecting and putting in that [s]mileage every day. They have been continuing to promote positive messages through tough times and have focused their energies on website maintenance as well as developing campaigns and  marketing strategies.

Of course, they are also both doing what they can to stay active with home fitness activities – even tackling new challenges such as the planche.

View the [s]mileage website, and support young adult mental health through the purchase of some merch!

View the Website Link to page