Journey Carter Advocates for Mental Health Awareness Through Her Social-Conscious Streetwear Line

Seventeen’s latest Voice of Change owns The Journey Collection, a brand that designs pieces stamped with empowering messages of self-love.


Even during the most challenging times in history, it's important to highlight those who are continuing to follow their dreams and are taking strides to make the world a better place. Each month, Seventeen is honoring one young person as a Voice of Change, someone who is making a difference in their community and the world at large.

Fashion is an outlet. It’s a form of self-expression that holds the ability to represent our personalities, our individuality, and our culture. It carries weight and meaning and can stand to raise awareness about the most important social issues in our world — enter The Journey Collection.

Journey Carter was only 12 years old when she launched her business, creating hair accessories with distinct, intricate bows for young girls with cancer. By 2020, she started sketching designs for streetwear pieces, such as hoodies, t-shirts, and hats, that conveyed mindful messages of empowerment and self-love. Phrases such as “It’s OK to Be Different,” “We Are Not the Same,” and “Different,” scribed in trendy fonts, grace pieces that vary from baby pink trucker hats to forest green tees.

“I want to be a voice for people [struggling with mental health] because I know that, sometimes, it can feel like you don't have anyone,” Journey told Seventeen. “Some people feel like they don't know where to go. But the Journey Collection can be a platform for those to be heard, to be seen, and to feel validated.”

In October 2021, The Journey Collection pop-up shop opened at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles, making Journey the youngest person ever to have a boutique in the shopping mall. Seven months later, in May, her designs walked the runway at the Pink Pumps Affair fashion show, an event that supports the Special Needs Network organization in L.A.

Among the responsibilities, commitments, and intensity that accompanies the life of a young entrepreneur, the 18-year-old maintains her studies as a sophomore at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, engages in her school's community service programs, and remains involved with her late grandfather’s L.A.-based nonprofit organization, Freedom of Spirit, which helps homeless people and disadvantaged families. And Journey is just getting started. It’s for her thoughtful ambition and dedication to build her brand around mental health awareness that Journey Carter is recognized as a Seventeen Voice of Change.

How did you initially get involved in fashion design?

I initially got involved in fashion design when coming out of an architecture summer program. I was learning how to use Photoshop, how to use the computer, and how to design homes. I already had [The Journey Collection] going at that point, so architecture really opened my eyes to design as a whole. I combined what I learned from the architecture program with my design skills, and everything started to come together.

Tell us about the mission behind your brand.

The mission behind my brand always changes — and change is a good thing. It grows. As of right now, it's growing into a platform for mental health awareness. It's a really big issue that some people don't talk about. Now, we're dealing with generational problems. We're dealing with traumas. I struggle with mental health; it's something many people go through.

What is the inspiration behind your designs?

Each collection has its own story. “It’s OK to Be Different” [represents] the phase of my life where I didn't feel like my skin or my hair was cute. I hated it. I’d want straight hair; I’d wish my hair wasn't nappy all the time. With the collection, I wanted to make sure that anyone else who feels like this understands that it's OK to be different. It’s OK to love your hair, whatever type of texture. Nobody has the same exact hairstyle. Yes, somebody has a similar hairstyle, but nobody has your hair on their head.

“Stay True to Yourself” is self-explanatory. Stay true to who you are. That came from a place where I thought, I don't like myself. But there was always this voice in the back of my head saying, just stay true to who you are. You don't have to compete or try to be something else for someone to like you. At the end of the day, happiness comes from loving who you truly are and doing what makes you truly happy.

“Different” is about being who you are and loving everything about you.

“We Are Not the Same” is probably my favorite collection. It's a relevant phrase, it's a cool thing to say. Do you, always do you. [For instance] you and I are on a call right now — we're not the same. We’re two different people from different parts of the world who got together, created something, and inspired.

What vision do you have for your brand moving forward?

There's a lot of vision. I want The Journey Collection to be a platform for mental health awareness. I want to redirect the brand, create new ways of working, new ways of designing, and ultimately, change the way things roll so The Journey Collection can fully become a platform for mental health awareness, social awareness, and individuality.

What is the biggest obstacle you've faced while building your brand?

The biggest obstacles are opinions and myself. I'm a very positive person, and I listen to people's opinions because they matter. If I know you and I care about you and you have something to suggest, then I’m going to listen and understand how I can alter something. But I would listen to certain opinions and feel like, oh my gosh, I suck. I've always said I'm my biggest obstacle because I'm the only one stopping me from moving to the next step. I have to keep filling myself with positivity so I can continue to release positivity to people.

How have you worked towards moving past self-criticism?

I'm working through it by allowing it. For me, allowing [criticism] is the first step to overcoming it because you allow your brain and your heart to deal with it. You don’t need to fix it right away — maybe you need to get out and work out or listen to your favorite song 30 times. But if I allow [the criticism] and learn to be OK with it, I can relax and I can understand it. Then I can say, that's wrong. That's not what I am.

As an entrepreneur and college student, how do you protect your emotional and mental health?

Balancing [everything] is really difficult because it's a lot coming at once. I didn't realize the magnitude of it all until recently. Being a designer, number one, you create for other people, not so much yourself. You create for people who follow you. But business matters can affect you personally. If sales drop, you think, I didn’t make something cool. I’m not cool anymore. I can’t do this. But I try to balance my time throughout my week. Mondays and Tuesdays are when I work and create. On Wednesdays, I do my self-care routine. I do my skincare routine, take myself to farmer's markets, buy vinyl, and make my own shea butter. I do what makes me happy and give myself that time in the middle of the week, so I’m refreshed through Sunday and am ready to work on Monday.

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What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?

Nike says it best — just do it. Be different when you do it. Don't worry about negativity because it’s only going to slow you down. I know it's so hard to not think of the negative, but if you envision starting your business in a positive way, then it'll happen in a positive way. Anything that you envision or visualize in your mind can come to life. Put positivity into it, love it, manifest it, talk to God about it, or whoever you might believe in. And remember to love yourself — you’re amazing for having this idea. Yes, it will be rough at times, but you got this.

How have you grown as a leader and an entrepreneur?

The way I design has gotten so much better from when I first started. I've [also] observed my mom and how she does certain things. I take good notes and ask my team what I can improve on. At the end of it all, I'm still trying to do everything to grow. I can see it in my designs, I see it in the way I handle things, how I put things together, how I put the fashion show we just had together. Oh my goodness. That was crazy. But we did it.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I'm most proud that I'm still here designing and loving what I'm doing. I'm proud that I can inspire other people.

What does being a Voice of Change honoree mean to you?

It’s indescribable. I feel it in my body, feel it in my system, but putting it into words is crazy. It’s surreal and it's a dream come true. It’s a vision come true for me to be an honoree of something so empowering and inspiring. What I really want to do is help other people.