Tuesday, February 11, 2014

AK Kerani's Winter Collection

AK Gray and AK Lionshade - $50

Many of you have already seen and admired AK Kerani's recent pride and glory:  The Winter Collection.

Created by Allison Baskett, this collection takes AK Kerani to new heights.  Our signature pattern is worked into both black and white fingerless gloves in two sizes.  And the scarves are designed in a fashion never seen before.

Why buy from AK Kerani?  Well, the goods are distinct, fashionable and functional in the cold. But that's not the only reason.  For nearly three years now, this company has advocated relentlessly for mental health, not only for those directly struggling with anxiety and depression, but for everyone.  As much as we work out, eat healthy and visit the doctor to maintain a hold on our physical health, we must do the same for our mental health.  We all reach stages of stability and stages of anxiety no matter who we are or what condition does or does not define us.  The goal is not to put anyone in a bubble - it's to work together towards achieving a higher sense of confidence, contentment and internal peace.

There are many things while in college and also while working for this company that have held me back.  The main one was falling into a pattern where I would seek the approval of others whom I knew would never be able to give it.  Investment in others can give us a higher sense of of happiness and fulfillment than we started off with, but it can also drain us of our self worth if it's given in the wrong way.  I invest significantly in AK Kerani and sometimes it feels like a lot. But the difference is that I'm putting the majority of my effort and resources into AK Kerani so that I contribute as much as I can to society, inspire people and fight for something that I and everyone else should believe in.

Black Wedding Gloves - $25

Don't settle this winter.  Don't think you've reached your destination.  Find a new project to invest in.  Find some new friends who bring out uncharted aspects of your personality.  Have you been stuck in a rut lately from which you've been too scared or tired to escape?  Do it.  Because life doesn't wait long enough for us to let negative forces rule our hearts and make them heavy.

When I wear the products from AK Kerani's Winter Collection, I'm reminded how far my team and I have come in these last few years and how much quicker we will continue to grow.  I'm reminded of the strength I have that I proved to myself, even if it was the hard way.  Our products represent confidence, strength and the pursuit of your ideal state of mind.  I hope that when you wear them, you can view them in the same way.  I hope that you will use our products as physical representations of what makes you feel alive.

Whether it's a $15 pair of white mitts, a stylish pair of $25 black wedding gloves or one of our lovely scarves, I hope that you will make an investment both in the future of AK Kerani and the universal pursuit of mental health.  I've always said that I want to change society one stitch at a time and with this collection, I do believe it is possible.


Danielle Kerani
Founder/CEO, AK Kerani

Colorful Infinity Scarf - $30

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I'M IDEAL when...


For up-and-coming singer/songwriter, Phil Kahan, being ideal means living in the now.  And the now, given the success of his recent single, "Be Cool," seems like an awesome place to be. This is a dream come true for Phil, whose songwriting career has and continues to be quite the journey. Since its release in September 2013, "Be Cool" has reached 500 spins on Sirius XM 20on20 as well many features on stations across the country. "Every day, people are finding and liking my music enough to buy it and that feels amazing," he said.

In the past few weeks before the New Year, I've been trolling around on the internet asking friends, family and strangers alike what makes them feel ideal.  The answers, paired with vibrant graphics, make up AK Kerani's first "My Ideal Campaign," by which we hope to inspire our friends and followers to live up to their goals and achieve a healthy and productive mental state.  The campaign is coming to a close as 2014 begins, marking the start of a new age and with it a chance to redefine and explore who we want to be.

When diving deeper into the meaning behind the "My Ideal Campaign" I wanted to talk to Phil, not just because of his growing celebrity and talent, but because two years ago, AK Kerani featured him for the first time.  We had just launched a newer model of our website and were revamping our mission to focus on mental health, spirituality and the pursuit of fulfillment.  In 2012, Phil and I talked about the importance of outlets such as knitting or music to make one's life meaningful.  Taking it a step further, I realized that it's not only the outlets that are significant - it's the way in which they can boost our states of mind, affect us at the core and push us towards higher places.  It's the way in which our love for these outlets convinces us not to give up when things get challenging or even seem impossible, because the process of approaching our goals and the moments in which we spend fine-tuning every note and every stitch can be its own perfect bubble.

After all it's living in the moment that allows us to process and shape our lives into what we want them to be.  Each microcosmic world that we create within ourselves helps develop our identities when we step back later and put them all together.  My good friend Sayid Abdullaev was one of the first people I interviewed for this campaign.  His spirituality has been an encouragement to both me and AK Kerani as we've progressed, especially his focus on "trusting the process," which is how he chose to describe when he is ideal.  "When I surrender and trust, I am ideal," said Sayid.  "I go to a space deep inside me that no one else is permitted to enter that I keep safe, pure and innocent where my soul resides.  I call it a diamond where I seek guidance and wisdom but it is only possible through trusting the process."

A related and  common theme I found in my campaign question involved people wanting to appreciate themselves more, looking inward instead of outwards.  Interestingly enough, "Be Cool" has a similar theme, as Phil describes.  "Most people don't even know what the song is about and a lot of people think it's about a girl, but really, I was just in the studio writing it on the spot," he said. "I was writing a character of a guy who watches another guy get all the girls and be cool and wants to be like that.  It's really about being yourself at the end of the day and finding the best you even though there are other people that you might wish you were more like."

While doing this campaign, though its main goal was to get others talking, I found out a lot more about AK Kerani and its mission as well as myself.  I realized how much I yearn to find the ideal me and moreover, that I wouldn't really know what it is now because so much of identity in the past few years as been caught up in the identities of other people.  I poured what should be mine into others to avoid the question I so easily asked a slew of people online.  When am I ideal?  Maybe I was scared that if I answered the question, I would have the responsibility to pursue my true ideal self at the expense of what had become comfortable.

I hope that you who participated in the campaign or even viewed the photos have thought at least for a few moments about when you are ideal.  I told everyone, there are many answers to this question.  And there should be.  Because we all should have outlets in our lives that sweep us up into the moment and let us live in the way in which we can feel free, happy, safe and warm.  For me, it might be blogging, writing and singing music, running and of course knitting.  For Sayid, it is his diamond and inner strength. And for Phil, being in the studio has always been a heightened experience.  But the key, as Phil said while wrapping up our conversation, is essentially investing one's faith, trust and energy in the now.

"At the end of the day, if you're in the now, not much could be going wrong," he said.  "Keep your mind on yourself.  Everything happens for a reason."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Some Demons Play

Lena Gryaznova, Emerald Scarf - $25
Last night, I spoke at a panel run by the Northwestern chapter of Active Minds discussing the stigma surrounding mental health issues.  I spoke along with three other talented Northwestern students who were all brave enough to stand up and expose their past or present struggles in favor of advocating for honest discussions about mental health.

Because of AK Kerani, I feel that I have become quite comfortable with talking about these issues and that the topic of mental health constantly surrounds me.  This is why I was surprised to see that I was quite nervous before speaking at the stigma panel.  Then I realized that when being interviewed as CEO of AK Kerani, I often package my personal struggles with mental health into a glossed-over pitch that amplifies the company's mission and brand, but doesn't force me to directly face the demons I've battled in college. That's not to say that the information I give is superficial or false.  All of it is true.  But it's often told from a brighter standpoint than I often feel.

Thinking over what I was going to say at the panel about my experience and about stigma, I was hit with a lot of raw memories I had pushed aside. What had made me so unhappy?  Was it the adjustment to college like I often say?  Or was it just that I'd been too strong for too long in high school?  Coming out of this dark spell, I often think of it as a rite of passage.  But this rite of passage brought harm to a lot of people I care about. Eventually, I felt myself shutting off and slipping deeper into a hole where I was no longer aware of who I was and what made me happy.  I tried to get at this in the panel, that I had lost even the parts I love most about my personality. But the feeling I felt is so hard to describe in words and it's something that I know is universal.  Everyone alive is capable of detaching, of isolating, of even hating themselves.  And stigma exists because we don't want to recognize those tendencies we observe in others as existing deep within ourselves.

Many of the questions following the panel were very insightful - about how we can be good friends to each other in the midst of struggles.  This question might in fact be one of the most important questions there is to ask.  How can we support each other when we see each other suffering?  It's so easy for us to run away because we believe we can't help or that we're making it worse or that we'll get sucked in.  I've been guilty of this and I've also been hurt by people who think this way. But in the heart of my depression, there have been so many instances of pure support that I will never forget.  When I felt that I'd lost full faith in even my desire to survive, someone who loved me put his hand over my mouth so that I'd push it away and see that I did have the motive to live on, even if I didn't see it.  I was one time lifted up when I was huddled on a bathroom floor in the gentlest way possible by someone who in despite of similar and clashing struggles, never hesitated to be strong for me.  I had a friend who even right after witnessing a panic attack on the street, was able to make me laugh like no other with that lovable sense of humor.  One of my wisest friends told me that we always doubt the things that we care about, which often includes ourselves. Over the course of these times, I lost my uncle and through this, members of both sides of my family came together and formed a bond more strong and lasting than I'd ever felt before.  And from my friends, I gained a very special family member who is always incredibly patient and said that he was aware of who I am under the surface and that it will just become clearer.  It goes without saying that my inspiration constantly comes from a shooting star whose strength, gracefulness and perseverance always leaves me breathless and reminds me each day to fight to be a better person.  I've hurt all of these people at some point, some seemingly beyond repair.  Because often we have demons.  And sometimes, these demons don't play well with others.  But if I think about all the times that people in my past and my present have reached down to my level and pulled me up into the future, I have no doubt that humanity exists and that stigma is so much smaller than the power we provide.

So when I think of AK Kerani and its mission, even when I'm making a business pitch, the mission is built directly from my personal struggles and the vision is built from what these people and more have done for me.  Being candid is scary but being vulnerable is all we have.  So regardless of if you're struggling or not, be candid today.  Tell someone you love them, reconnect with an old friend, forgive someone for what they've done to you, rise and be the better person.  Challenge yourself.  And make sure to thank those who've helped you for what they've done, even if they can't tangibly hear you.

Have a great Holiday Season and of course, keep AK Kerani in mind.

Danielle Kerani
Founder/CEO, AK Kerani

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mental Health Awareness Week 2013

Dear Fans and Supporters of AK Kerani, 

As this year's Mental Health Awareness Week comes to a close, I wanted to encourage you all to think about your own mental health and that of those around you.  

I do a lot of speaking about mental health as a general concept as well as my own personal experiences with anxiety and depression in college.   I've definitely become comfortable associating my own struggles and triumphs with AK Kerani's mission and my goals for the company.  However, it's only recently that I've begun to examine how my own actions and behaviors affect the mental health of those around me.  Mental health is an important global concept and it also is integral to an individual's functionality and survival.  But mental health is also collective.  Through our thoughts, actions and feelings we are capable of fostering or destroying our community's mental health. Managing one's own mental health can be difficult enough, but viewing it as a collective issue can further illuminate our responsibilities to ourselves.  If we can get past the stress of an added dimension, there is much to learn about others' requirements for maintaining mental health.  How are they different from us?  How can we help one another?  Can we satisfy their needs while also tending to our own?  

I've found that it is actually very difficult to create and maintain a collective pool of mental health.  Growing it takes trust, energy and effort that is hard to come by.  Maintaining it perfectly takes the assumption that our needs will never clash or detriment someone else's.  But that's the thing: we're not perfect.  If we try to be, we disservice ourselves and everyone around us.  We will dance unpredictably around each other, waffling between putting our needs above others' and sacrificing our needs for someone else.  There's no real way to win when thinking of mental health collectively, unless we accept that winning means constantly failing and getting back up. How we treat others, forgiving them and understanding their pitfalls is how we should treat ourselves.  Some days we feel too much. Or we repress feelings until they come out in the form of a dysfunctional, harmful volcano.  That doesn't mean we deserve punishment, self-destruction or any other ill forms of treatment.  It means that we are on a continuum of growth in which mental health is flexible and constantly changes in expression and meaning. 

As you may know, AK Kerani released its fall collection two months ago and we have been enjoying producing and selling our handmade scarves, hats and gloves in support of mental health.  If you support our cause and our mission, please visit our Fall Collection page and order one of our beautiful items to keep you warm in the upcoming cold.  

Live Your Fairytale.  It's possible. 

Danielle Kerani
Founder/CEO, AK Kerani

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Celebrating Two Years

Dear Fans and Followers of AK Kerani,

Today is a very important day for me as CEO of AK Kerani and for our team. Firstly, it is the birthday of our beautiful and talented co-designer Allison Baskett, whose leadership and artistic contributions to our vision have been unparalleled. Second, it is AK Kerani's two year anniversary.

Two summers ago, on June 15, my family lost a brightly shining gem. My uncle Atindra Kumar was someone I admired for many reasons, not only for his quirky sense of humor, sensitivity to music and undoubted intellect, but for his rare and genuine kindness that you just don't see in the world. Who sits up at three in the morning after driving all night to watch TV with a 16-year-old, Korean drama obsessed niece? Who after hearing just a few mentions of a self-centered 18-year-old's dream alma mater sends her a gorgeous Northwestern shirt before application season, saying that now there's no option but her getting in? He saw right to my soul. And he just got it. Sure my uncle struggled with schizophrenia, but that's not what I remember about him.

I started AK Kerani to honor my uncle's memory. Clothes were his favorite gift to give me. And I can make clothes, with the intention of sharing them with others. But AK Kerani's mission runs even deeper than what shows on the surface. I wanted to use this idea to continue fighting for something that my uncle was able to achieve. I wanted anyone who comes across AK Kerani and its mission to believe that their struggles may be significant but in no means control them. Moreover, I wanted everyone to realize that the fight to discover and maintain mental health is universal.

Let's face it: We are all emotional, erratic, stubborn, overly sensitive, insecure, impulsive and broken people. We do things sometimes that result in our being labeled as crazy, neurotic...even psycho. If you think about the last time you were called one of those terms, does it hurt you? Does it burn you at the core? Does it make you feel lesser?

Regardless of how seriously we struggle, none of us deserve for the world to define us by our difficulties when they don't even know where they come from. Just as my uncle gave himself the chance to work, to excel, to explore, to love and to achieve in life, we all should give ourselves this chance. Anxiety, depression or any struggle can be hard to fight. But with the right resources, we can work to not let them control us.

AK Kerani is young. And I know that two years by no means bodes forever. But I hope that within the last two years, by advocating for mental health and promoting knitting as therapy for anxiety through the selling of our products, we have inspired someone. And in the coming year and beyond, we can convince people that no matter the adversity, anyone can dare to dream.

Live your Fairytale. It's possible.

Danielle Kerani
Founder/CEO, AK Kerani

Monday, March 11, 2013

Into The Sky

Photo Credit: Rafi Letzter
Northwestern Magazine

Sometimes you start writing a blog and you know that it's going to be the type of blog that you start over millions and millions of times from scratch.  Why?  Because it's not easy to write about depression.   It's not easy to get that nerve to share feelings.  And it's not easy to say what you feel without coming off as impulsive, immature and out of control.

I used to think my depression was caused by my past.  I'd been damaged as a kid and when it finally caught up to me, I became depressed.  However, it was that mentality that kept me routed to my depression.  If it came from my past, from things I couldn't control, how could I fix it?  I was telling myself, albeit indirectly, that I was entitled to my depression.  I acted and felt as if it had been thrust upon me and that it was my burden to bear unconditionally.

When we give into our depression, we become different people.  We lose traits of ourselves and replace them with darkness.  People begin to view us through a lens that does not represent us.  We internalize these perceptions of ourselves by others and make them our own.  We start viewing ourselves as weak. And then one day, when we begin to fight back, it's too late.  We've already made our mark on the world and those arounds us.  They don't trust us or our claims that we have changed.  They feel that they can't relate to us because for so long we haven't let them.  They feel like we are hopeless even though they won't say it outright.  And they come up with every nice excuse in the book to send us away.

But is it too late?  Am I a lost cause?  Will people always see me through the lens of my depression?  Can I convince those whom I've hurt that this is not who I am?  In life, we hear many hurtful things from others that we must process, but the worst by far is hearing that it's too late.  I don't want it to be too late.

I've read many quotes and words of wisdom that say that people who care about you accept your changes and rejoice with you.  I have many people in my life who have done so.  These people are flexible.  They recognize their own changes and therefore can appreciate those of others.  I suppose if people can't see my changes and can't rejoice with me, that reflects more on them than it does on me.  I can't keep thinking it's all my fault or that blaming my depression for every tragedy in my life is the productive way to cope.  However, I do have to apply self respect in my new enlightened state enough to expect that others who care about me will recognize my changes and adjust their views of me to fit who I really am.

My goal in growing and expanding AK Kerani is to give people with my struggles tangible comfort and hope that their despair can be overcome.  Being an advocate for mental health is not easy, especially when people, even those close to me, do not want to listen.  Whether this is because of their own struggles that they refuse to recognize or because of other reasons that inhibit them from feeling, I know that these people are more reflective of this current world's state than I am.  And this is exactly what I want to change.  I don't want to live in and endorse an apathetic world where one's superficial view of oneself trumps their recognition of others.  I want to help create a world where people realize what is important enough to reframe society's priorities.

Those of you who struggle with anxiety and depression know that it's a hard path not only because of the loss of friends and hope in people we face along the way, but because of the battle that ensues within ourselves.  We pray and pray that those close to us will give us yet another chance.  But just as we'd have them reframe their priorities, we have to reframe ours and first give ourselves another chance - a chance to prove to ourselves and ourselves only that we deserve love, compassion and respect.  In doing this, we may in fact regain the respect and love of others.  But that's not what is important.  Because other people's reactions to us will almost always be a reflection of our own internal feelings.  We can curse people out indefinitely for abandoning us but in the end, depression is an abandonment of ourselves.  And when we see that, we won't be begging people to tell us it's no longer too late.  We'll be calling out to them telling them to hurry up and spread some wings if they want the last privileged slot for our flight up into the sky.

Danielle Kerani
Founder/CEO, AK Kerani

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Our Own Two Feet

Dear Friends and Followers of AK Kerani,

There is never a bad time to encourage all of you who struggle with anxiety to continue to fight for your mental and physical health and encourage those of you who do not struggle with anxiety in particular to support your friends who do.

In the winter months, our spirits may become dreary.  We fight the wind and harsh air while walking to work, classes and social engagements and often it blows against us in a way not too far from how our struggles harm our souls.  At AK Kerani, we do believe that our intricately designed winter wear is both calming in design and warm in texture enough to combat cold weather.  However, no amount of physical layers can heal a broken spirit.  For often, our demons come both from hostile forces around us and from within.

What I've realized recently is that as recovering anxiety and depression patients, we are expected to be functional members of society.   When depressed, we are not only cut slack by those around us, but mainly by ourselves.  We will not attempt healthy courses of action for fear of the temporary consequences they might have.  We are used to our states of pain.  We are used to being insecure.  We are used to having people confirm and even encourage our anxiety.  We have become experts in mistrust.  And we feel we are too weak to think otherwise.  But coming out of depression, the world suddenly becomes clearer.  We can feel love and joy and happiness in a way previously unknown to us.  We no longer feel the perpetual, lingering sting of emptiness.  And yet somehow the winter is colder.  Somehow our recognition of pain is clearer.  And the demons we have let control us still fight for our allegiance though we have let them go.

So what does it mean to move forward?  What does it mean to step outside the chains that have held us?  It means we will change.  And it means that we will become stronger, more open and braver.  But we cannot expect celebration, at least not from everyone.  Some around us preferred our miserable selves because it gave them company and we must hope from a distance for their recovery.  Some whom we have hurt greatly through our anxious tendencies have trouble believing our changes right away and we must be patient as they were with us.  And some whom we felt were allies we realize never took our health or friendship seriously in the first place and we must feel the betrayal and the loss and let go.  And yet mental health in its purest sense means we are free of the influence of others.  It means that our celebrations of ourselves echo loudly and loud enough to satisfy our greatest needs.  We must be secure in a world of insecurities and brave in a world of fear.  We must tackle our obstacles instead of shying away, feeling that we do not possess nor deserve the strength to fight them.

Did I ever think I would be anxious?  No.  I never thought my strong shield of self would ever cripple.  But now I see, as many of you with similar struggles have seen, that the triumph over anxiety has helped me create myself as I'm supposed to be.  It's a struggle that is universal and that all of us, even if we deem ourselves healthy, will still be faced with some days.  But who we are and who we choose to be is greater.  We are not forced to answer to the lies of others.  We are not meant to be responsible for choices that weren't ours.  All we have to do is answer to ourselves and if we have faith in our health, actions and honesty, I do believe that we can reach a sense of peace, standing on our own two feet.  

Cheers to all and stay warm!

Danielle Kerani
Founder/CEO, AK Kerani