Madhappy wants to start a conversation about mental health

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style points

Style Points is a weekly column on how fashion intersects with the rest of the world.

I chose an interesting time to speak to Peiman Raf. When we spoke last week, Simone Biles had withdrawn from several Olympic competitions citing her sanity, highlighting the issue worldwide. Despite being in an era that claims to be “open” about mental health, amid the overwhelming support Biles received there was still a fair amount of resistance to his statement, with critics citing hurtful terms like “leave”.

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At 27, Raf is relatively young, but old enough to remember a time long before the words “sanity” appeared in ESPN’s headlines, when talking about these topics was shamed. Madhappy, the brand he founded with his brother Noah and his friends Mason Spector and Joshua Sitt, is a fairly simple line of sporty and bright leisure and leisure wear with sunny graphics: think of the rainbow-colored patterns. -in-sky and Alice in Wonderland-size flowers. Fuzzy bucket hats are involved. But in the way that brands seem to be more and more these days, it’s also a platform. The quartet envisions Madhappy as a way to bring attention to emotional well-being through projects such as a direct phone line; a blog, The Local Optimist, which features stories on topics such as eating disorders and setting limits; a partnership with the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit mental health and suicide prevention organization focused on adolescents and young adults; and a freshly launched podcast with guests like Ramy Youssef and Emma Chamberlain.

crazy summer 2021

Coach Kirsty Godso in a Madhappy look.

Courtesy of Madhappy

If the idea of ​​a fashion brand getting into the proverbial chat when it comes to a serious issue like mental health seems superficial to you, Raf is a great candidate to change your mind. Coming from LA wearing a bright purple Hard Rock Café t-shirt (he jokes that it’s “vintage Thursday”), he explains that in the same way that preventative physical health has become a growing concern in the ’70s and’ 80s (complete with juice fads and jogging yuppies) a movement is now underway when it comes to protecting our sanity. And he thinks fashion has its place in this conversation. “People really want to talk about this stuff,” he says, “and nobody does. Why can’t we be like the Nike of sanity? Or what Patagonia? [did for] durability? Why can’t we do this for mental health? “

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Growing up in LA, Raf and his friends came across “all these cool streetwear brands that went up when we were in high school. They were super cool, but they didn’t make you feel good when you walked around the store.” Madhappy’s message of optimism and inclusiveness is a new take on what luxury can be, falling somewhere between ’90s streetwear and the goal-oriented brands that have cropped up in the years, and he has attracted impressive investors from LVMH to Tommy Hilfiger. Fashion, says Raf, “has such a strong connection to mental health because it’s the way people express themselves. And the message you carry is who you are trying to be, in a way. or whoever you want to be. ”

It can also create a community. Over time, he said, there will be fans of The Local Optimist. They don’t have to buy Madhappy to be a part of it. Someone can also be a fan of the garment, he admits, unaware of the brand’s other efforts. “We’re just trying to let people interact, but it makes sense to them.”

crazy summer 2021

A look from the brand’s summer collection.

Courtesy of Madhappy.

Spector, who came up with the label’s name, recalls that its creation came at a time when he was “super depressed” and was considering dropping out of college. Back then, he says, “I really had no sense of identity or purpose and felt very weak.” He saw the brand as a way to talk about those feelings, and when the band founded Madhappy four years ago, Sitt adds, “that kind of open discussion about mental health was still out of the ordinary.” This is less the case now, as we have seen with conversations around Biles and Naomi Osaka, but also for the young men of the founding cohort, mental health can still be a difficult topic to broach. (Even, it seems like if you’re a celebrity, “It was a lot easier to have female guests than male guests” when booking the podcast, Raf admits.)

crazy summer 2021

The brand’s iconic bobs.

Courtesy of Madhappy

Certainly, Madhappy operates in an imperfect world, where the lack of universal healthcare and limited access to public mental health resources are the greatest challenges facing our collective image of mental health. Just as Patagonia has made forays into the public sphere, like joining a lawsuit to protect two Utah national monuments, Raf says Madhappy can go beyond the private sector with his own efforts. “Over time, we want to have the most impact possible,” he says. “If that means being more involved on the research side [or] on the government side, I think it definitely leans more that way.

At the end of the day, however, says Raf, he has a simple mission: he just wants to make “cool products that people love.” This, presumably, makes everyone a little happier.

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