When Louise Clark was diagnosed with postnatal depression in 2009, it was a referral to the maternal mental health unit that set her on the path to recovery. Now, the inspiring Auckland mother is combining her eye for style and passion for mental wellbeing to help others access similar support.

Louise is the owner of The Collective, a lovingly-curated secondhand fashion, furniture and homeware store in Birkenhead's Highbury Shopping Centre. It’s a place you can feel good about entering for several reasons: not only is The Collective an uplifting and colourful space in which to shop, but 50% of all profits go to the Mental Health Foundation.  

“Starting The Collective was my way of saying hey, let’s normalise something that is actually normal, let’s encourage people to have authentic conversations, and let’s support the amazing work The Mental Health Foundation is doing,” Louise says. 

Too much to bear alone 

After the birth of her daughter, Billie, Louise “knew right from the get go something wasn’t right,” but says it wasn’t easy to talk about.

“It was difficult expressing the extent of how I felt at the first doctor’s visit. I was given medication, but things just unravelled to the point where I knew this was something I couldn’t get through on my own. Admitting that was really hard but, ultimately, it was the very thing that helped me.”

A referral to the maternal mental health unit ended up being exactly what she needed. 

"I remember walking in there, with my cap pulled right down over my head... I suppose it just reflected how I was feeling inside. By the end of those sessions, I wasn’t wearing the cap. 

Light after the darkness 

Louise Clark and daughterLouise credits a combination of talk therapy, medication, time, and her Mum for ultimately getting her through the “darkness” of postnatal depression. The birth of her daughter also ended up being the ultimate inspiration. 

“It stopped being about me, and all about my daughter and the life that I wanted for her.”  

Louise wonders how life might have turned out if she hadn't been able to access the counselling she needed, which is why she wants to make talking therapies more accessible to those who don't meet the criteria for district health board-funded services.

In 2015, Louise founded The Collective, which she has always thought of not just as a secondhand store, but as a social enterprise and platform to inspire happier, healthier communities. 

“It was a project that excited me because it was about the things I really cherish: stylish sustainability; being part of a movement that has real meaning; people and their mental health and wellbeing.”

 The Collective’s latest initiatives include running clothing drives through businesses, gearing up to introduce ‘‘social selling” on both Instagram and Facebook, and bringing on a small team to refurbish and upcycle a lot of the furniture. 

“This is a really exciting part of the business for us,” she says. “Putting the love back into the furniture is a good metaphor for what we are trying to do with people.”  

How to get involved:

  1. If you have clean, current clothing in good condition, furniture or homeware that you would like to donate, you can drop it at the shop in Highbury Shopping Centre (in the carpark next to Sal’s pizza). The Collective also offers a FREE pick-up service for furniture. 

  2. If you can’t make it to the shop, phone Louise on 0508 DONATE (0508 366 283) or email: donate@thecollective.co.nz and she will arrange pick-up.

  3. Like and share The Collective on Facebook and Instagram

  4. Visit the shop and enjoy some retail therapy: see thecollective.co.nz for store hours.