Embracing Mental Health
Initiating Conversations through Clothing
Just a week ago, a long queue formed in SoHo. The attraction was a pop-up store by the apparel brand Madhappy, arriving from L.A.
With a mission to “Make the world a more optimistic place,” Madhappy offers apparel products as a means to foster conversations about mental health. Their designs incorporate flowers, sun, and vibrant colors.
One of the four founders, Peiman Raf, speaks about the brand’s engagement with these issues: “Fashion is a means for people to express themselves, and it’s closely linked with mental health. Printed messages are embodiments of who you want to be.”
Indeed, Madhappy’s clothing features positive messages like “Feel Your Feelings” and “Treat Yourself Like Someone You Love.”
The brand’s efforts go beyond apparel; they maintain a blog, a podcast to share information about mental health, and collaborate with a non-profit organization focused on suicide prevention by providing a hotline, among other initiatives.
They provide various means for individuals to engage in ways that resonate with them.
To become a Patagonia of the mental health world, Madhappy acknowledges the need to strengthen relationships with researchers and government agencies. As a first step, they plan to donate a portion of their profits to support academic research in the field of mental health.
One can look forward to a future where apparel brands become dependable allies in the realm of mental health.
Approaching Mental Health
Mental health is becoming a significant topic worldwide, and brands addressing mental health care are on the rise. In a Vogue article, several of these so-called “mental health brands” are highlighted.
In addition to Madhappy, which was featured in the highlight article, brands like Leret Leret and SADIRE use their pop-design merchandise as a foundation to spread messages. Each brand approaches mental health from various angles. For instance, SADIRE aims to show a path to “finding humor as well as confronting sadness” through its products. Moreover, The Mayfair group aspires to create a happy space on the internet through its digital community.
The core statements of mental health brands vary significantly. However, a formula seems to emerge where “being pop equals calling for positive emotions.” This might dilute the uniqueness and statements that each brand inherently holds. By making their core identity more visible, brands could potentially alter our loyalty towards them significantly.
Terms like wellness or well-being are facing the same challenge as the buzzword “sustainability” did in the previous generation. It’s about how to evaluate the contributions made by companies.
Both wellness and sustainability are difficult to quantify compared to existing metrics like vital data or financial indicators. Moreover, the factors contributing to their outcomes are intricately intertwined.
So, what kind of disclosure will be demanded in the realm of mental health? Let’s consider fashion brands as an example, as mentioned in the main article.
A clear aspect is activities beyond their core business, such as supporting related organizations.
For instance, the American brand “happiness project” announced that they would donate 15% of their revenue to suicide prevention organizations, which offers a tangible way to measure their contribution. This is akin to the familiar format of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities like reforestation projects.
The challenge lies in how effectively they can empower people through their core activities (designing clothes and promoting them).
Supporting such efforts with academic research could be a valuable hint.
In “Designing for Well-being,” various scales (like self-rating scales for depression) used in the fields of psychiatry and psychology are discussed. Collaborating with experts and conducting qualitative surveys among customers could be a promising option, considering its feasibility despite challenges like sample size and privacy.
With the increasing proximity between academicians and fashion brands, as seen with Rare Beauty led by Selena Gomez and their engagement with campaigns involving experts, one can anticipate exciting developments in the future.
The Indispensable Authenticity
Do apparel brands advocating for mental health truly contribute to those in need?
INPUT’s article addresses this critical question with a critical perspective.
One major issue highlighted is the unclear intention behind their designs. Despite printing designs related to mental health issues, the majority of their product descriptions are excerpts from song lyrics. While conveying messages about mental health through their prints, their continuous activities in the mental health realm are negligible. This could inadvertently lead to harmful impacts.
Liz Beecroft, a consultant with experience in cultivating wellness corporate cultures, emphasizes that these brands need substantiated efforts. This includes collaborations and contributions with specialized institutions and non-profits, as well as providing resources.
With mental health gaining increased attention due to the pandemic, maintaining authenticity that aligns messages with actions becomes ever more vital to avoid the term “mental health washing.”