Changing the Conversation: How Tapestry Is a Champion of Mental Health

Tapestry supports its employees’ well-being with benefits and vulnerable conversation. Built In sat down with three of its people leaders to find out how.

Written by Jenny Lyons-Cunha
Published on Jun. 12, 2023
Changing the Conversation: How Tapestry Is a Champion of Mental Health
Tapestry
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“I’m not OK today.” 

At Tapestry, this simple acknowledgment sets a carefully orchestrated system of support into motion. From the frontline employees that power its retail stores to its executive suite, Tapestry equips key personnel with the tools to know what to say next. 

Across all three of its brands, Tapestry has empowered over 100 store and corporate associates with Mental Health First Aid training in partnership with the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, a comprehensive program that teaches professionals to tackle mental health conversations with empathy and a rich knowledge of available resources. 

One such trainee is Nora Richardson, employee relations director and leader of Tapestry’s Priority You wellness group.

“I talk to employees who are going through tough times,” Richardson said. “If someone is struggling, I feel empowered to step in, listen and say the right thing. 

“These are really serious moments, and we have the chance to make a critical impact at the right time,” she added. 

“Our certified Mental Health First Aiders know how to navigate these conversations — to lead with empathy, to better understand and to be a resource,” said Kellie Dolzynski, regional director of Kate Spade New York, West. 

For professionals who are carrying the weight of the modern world, the resource could not be more timely. Over the past few years especially, frontline retail employees have faced the gravity of the pandemic, social injustice and shifting political climates, said Dolzynski.

“Everybody’s mental health is being impacted,” she said. “We’re able to get our people the resources they need to thrive at work, home and across their communities.” 

 

“Everybody’s mental health is being impacted. We’re able to get our people the resources they need to thrive at work.”

 

Mental Health First Aid trainees are provided resources to appropriately activate necessary responses and support systems for a variety of situations. 

“They know how to quickly access our EAP counselors, how to support the teams affected and when to help them,” Dolzynski said. 

Four years into its launch, the program is thriving. 

“We continuously see the demand for it — the waitlist is constantly full,” she said. “These are skills we’re not just using with our colleagues, peers and partners, but in our personal lives as well.”

The training experience is immersive, she noted. Supported by over 6 hours of coursework, training and conversation with trainers from the National Council of Mental Wellbeing, the program leaves employees feeling confident in their ability to address the situation at hand  — whether it’s a vulnerable conversation or a life-threatening situation. 

“By no means are we experts or therapists, but we’re changing the conversation,” Dolzynski said.  

Just one facet of Tapestry’s ever-growing suite of resources, Mental Health First Aid training is far from the only way the global brand house is championing mental health. From a rich employee assistance program to wellness initiatives, company-wide meditation sessions and wellness days, mental health is a pinnacle priority at Tapestry. 

“I don’t think this level of support is matched anywhere else in the industry,” Dolzynski said. “We’re leading the work and optimistic to continue seeing the impact.” 

 

WHAT TAPESTRY DOES

“A tapestry is made of many threads woven into one story. So are we,” reads a description of Tapestry. The global house of brands unites Coach, Kate Spade New York and Stuart Weitzman.

 

Benefits, Above and Beyond 

For Benefits Analyst Nicole Arbes, access is the crux of her daily work at Tapestry.

“We want our employees to know every single detail of what we offer,” Arbes said. “We make sure they have resources available at their fingertips.” 

Arbes and her colleagues stay abreast of marketplace trends, keeping their fingers on the pulse of what employees are looking for in a benefits package. 

“We’re always asking ourselves, ‘What can we do better? How can we better engage our employees?’” Arbes said. “We’re committed to communicating benefits to the team in ways that meet their individual needs.” 

A well-used benefit is Tapestry’s employee assistance program (EAP), which connects professionals with a wealth of support. Through the EAP, every employee gains access to eight free counseling sessions per year, legal counsel and an intuitive concierge service. 

“The EAP can help find childcare, elder care, financial planning resources and beyond,” said Richardson, who works closely with Arbes. “It’s a one-stop shop for any assistance you need — and it’s completely company-paid.

“The goal is to support individuals in bringing their best selves to work,” she added. 

The benefits extend to dependents, too, Arbes explained. “Counseling, podcasts, articles: It’s all available to the entire household,” she said. 

 

Photo of two side-by-side She Care Wellness Pods, fully furnished
Tapestry

 

SHE CARE WELLNESS PODS

Under the umbrella of Tapestry, one of the Kate Spade Foundation’s most recent partnerships has been with actress Taraji. P. Henson’s Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation. The two foundations have begun installing a series of “She Care Wellness Pods” at historically black colleges and universities. Starting with a launch at Alabama State University, the project is designed to provide over 25,000 Black women with access to therapy, yoga, workshops and a quiet area to recharge.

“At Kate Spade New York, we have been working at the intersection of women’s mental health for the last decade. We made a commitment to reach 100,000 women and girls with access to mental health and empowerment resources. It’s truly incredible to see the She Care Wellness Pods across campus and the support they will provide,” Dolzynski said, beaming.


Beyond third-party fare, Tapestry has crafted a flight of in-house wellness benefits. Wellness days, Flex Fridays and periods of unstructured work time empower employees to own their work-life balance.  

Both Arbes and Richardson agree that even the most robust of benefits is made more powerful by the culture that contains them. 

“Here, it’s normal to ask a colleague, ‘Are you OK? How are you feeling?’ and point them toward the right resources,” said Arbes. 

“There’s a support we feel here from leadership and our direct managers,” Richardson explained. “There’s always time and space to talk about mental health.” 

 

“There’s always time and space to talk about mental health.”

 

Making the Conversation Louder

Every Tuesday and Friday throughout the year, Tapestry takes 15 minutes to collectively exhale. 

Hosted by Mind Body Soul, a Kate Spade employee-led community, the biweekly meditations are open to employees across Tapestry’s brands, from front-line retail to leadership. 

The communal mindfulness session is Mind Body Soul’s quietest offering — most of its events are abuzz with conversations about wellness and mental health. Monthly meet-ups, international extensions, Mental Health Month activations, social impact council meetings and its well-loved monthly newsletter series allow Mind Body Soul members to connect over their lived experiences. 

“The internal community, Mind Body Soul, is meant to foster conversations and support for all. Whether looking for new wellness ideas, sharing self-care book club finds or connecting with someone to be a listening ear for any challenges, our community group is open to all. In opening up the conversation, we aim to reduce stigma and make mental health challenges a part of our everyday dialogue,” said Dolzynski, who is Mind Body Soul’s co-chair and fierce advocate. 

Stigma is a marquee talking point, she noted. 

“It’s still one of the biggest challenges we face,” Dolzynski continued. “We are slowly moving towards more candid conversations instead of a culture of shame or embarrassment for mental health challenges.” 

 

THE JOY JAR

One of Mind Body Soul’s many activations is The Joy Jar, Tapestry’s internal podcast series. The crux of the podcast is interactive conversation about the nuances of mental well-being. “Quarterly, we have a speaker talk around a variety of issues — whether it’s our social impact council or keynote speakers,” said Dolzynski.

 

It’s a topic that reaches far beyond wellness initiatives and into vital public discourse. 

One way Dolzynski amplifies the subject is by openly blocking out a standing weekly appointment on her calendar for therapy. The small act gives colleagues the chance to recognize and empathize with the importance of therapy versus tiptoeing around it, she explained. 

“We’re all going to experience a mental health challenge at some point in our lives, whether personally or through someone close to us,” she said. “It’s about learning how to come out the other side to be a support and resource for others — colleagues, family, friends, communities.”

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Tapestry.

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