Madhappy, the LVMH Ventures-backed fashion company, is blazing a trail for what a 21st-century brand can be and, more importantly, what it can do: make the world a better place one fashion piece at a time.
Founded in 2017 by Peiman Raf, his brother Noah, Mason Spector and Joshua Sitt, Madhappy came from the recognition that people, especially young people, are in need of positive messages to help combat the incessant negativity that inundates them in the culture and across social media. Madhappy gave it to them.
“Our initial idea was to make t-shirts that had positive messages on them,” Noah Raf shared with me. “We just wanted to be a positive clothing brand. But soon, we started building a community and realized we could be champions of mental health among the younger generations.”
Madhappy’s cause is just as important as its fashion, perhaps more so, but it’s through the fashion that Madhappy can fulfill its mission “to make the world a more optimistic place.”
“We need to build the most impactful, successful and biggest business we possibly can because that will mean we will have the most impact possible,” he said. “Yvon never lost sight of growing Patagonia to a multi-billion dollar business because that ultimately meant more impact on the environment and sustainability.”
Acknowledging that Madhappy is “only getting started,” Raf described several initiatives to move the company further along its mission, starting with permanent stores.
“Over the last five years, we’ve had 15 seasonal popup shops, so we’ve been in and out of all different markets and been very successful at it,” he explained. “But next year, we are going to open a flaghip store in West Hollywood on Melrose Avenue, right in the heart of ‘cream of the crop’ retail.”
Designed by Playlab, the store is slated to open in May 2023. While Raf is keeping details close to his vest, he did reveal it will be the physical hub of what the brand represents online. It will feature regular programming, including mental health panels, speakers, artist performances and live podcast recordings.
Raf promised the flagship store will showcase the best tried-and-tested experiences from the popup stores.
“The whole premise of the store is around conversations. We aim to keep people in and around the store for as long as possible because it will be a safe place to talk about things that may be bothering you,” he said.
The store staff will act not just as salespeople to push more clothing but as a source for additional information and resources to help. “We want to point people where they need to go if they are facing struggles. We want to create a space and a feeling that people are welcome to ask questions that may be uncomfortable to ask in other places,” Raf shared.
Following the Melrose Avenue opening, Madhappy will be expanding globally with flagships in Asia and more seasonal popups next summer.
Columbia Sportswear Expansion
To merchandise the new stores, Madhappy continues to expand its partnership with Columbia Sportswear, the $3+ billion global outdoor company that’s just came off nine months posting a 15% increase in sales. The co-branded Madhappy-designed and Columbia-produced range includes all-season fashion items to help people spend more time outdoors.
“Outdoors is a big area we are focusing on because we are trying to show the youth how important it is for their mental health to be outdoors; scientific research backs that up,” he continued. “Columbia has been an incredible partner in legitimizing us as we deepen our footprint in the outdoor space.”
Madhappy will continue to produce its range of printable t-shirts, hoodies and fleece items as it expands into knitwear, pants and outerwear. Printed slogans on the outdoor range include “Find Peace in Nature” and “Find Balance in Nature.”
“Columbia stands as a true symbol of accessibility in the outdoor space,” he continued. “While many other brands create outdoor products, we have always respected Columbia’s range in outfitting both everyday people and athletes performing at the highest level of competition.”
Mental Health Activism
New stores and new products will fuel Madhappy’s bigger mission of bringing awareness, information and support for mental health. This year, it launched The Madhappy Foundation as a 501(c)(3) organization that distributes 1% of the company’s proceeds on a monthly basis to various organizations, including The Loveland Foundation, Sad Girls Club and Born This Way Foundation.
Plus, it provides long-tail support for mental health research, such as a grant to the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center.
It is also funding programs with Vanderbilt University Medical Center aimed at adolescents with anxiety disorders. The foundation’s Pediatric Psychiatric Fund will be used by VUMC to develop an anxiety screening tool to use in pediatric primary care settings and schools to identify vulnerable children.
The Madhappy community, called The Local Optimists, are getting behind the programs by donating their own money to these efforts. “As soon as we opened up the foundation to outside donations, we’ve seen donors contributing $50,000 to $100,000 and more. We’ve had a high level of engagement that was quite unexpected,” he shared.
The Local Optimists gain access to free mental health resources and news through blogs, newsletters, social media channels and a Madhappy podcast.
The podcasts are hosted by Raf’s brother Peiman and Mason Spector with notable guests who open up about their own mental health journeys, including artists, musicians, athletes and professionals.
For example, recent guests included Spotify’s Harley Finklestein who shared his mental health struggles through the pandemic and Jay Shetty, a former Hindu monk, a member of the Forbes 30 under 30 class of 2017 and author of Think Like a Monk.
“Our audience is the GenZ and Millennials, ages 15 to upwards of 35 years. The podcasts are rooted in giving them a couple of nuggets of information that they can learn from and hopefully apply to their lives,” Raf continued. “But we aren’t trying to be the world’s savior. We just want to do our part in the conversation.”
To keep all its good works flowing, Madhappy is determined to sell more fashion that makes people happy.
“Success and impact don’t have to be mutually exclusive,” Raf concluded. “We want to be the Nike of mental health.”