Centered around community uplift, Madhappy attempts to transcend both local and global scales on its way to promoting widespread physical, mental, and spiritual positivity through their chic designs. Online and in-store, the brand makes a conscious effort to promote mental health awareness through the pieces they create and the words they abide by. We owe this whole breath of fashion fresh air to Noah Raf, the young and already widely successful, co-founder of Madhappy. We sat down with Raf to figure out his intentions for what's in store with the "Local Optimist Group."
You’re no stranger to the world of fashion. What prompted you to launch Madhappy?
I don’t think there is a certain thing I can pinpoint that prompted us to launch Madhappy. I had another company before that I started right out of high school and that’s where I really fell in love with the fashion industry. After that fizzled out I just wanted to do it again but take a completely different approach to it. Once my partner approached me with the name I fell in love with it and we hit the ground running.
The name is an interesting one - and an uplifting one. What’s behind the name Madhappy?
One of my partners (Mason) thought of the name and instantly called me. I still remember where I was. I went straight to his house and we starting talking about what we wanted to create with it. One of the reasons the name stuck with me so much (aside from being insanely catchy) was that it was so relatable. Everyone can connect to it in one way or another. We all have moments where we are struggling, and we all have moments where we are thriving. Madhappy is able to highlight both of those moments and connect both parts of our lives in an encapsulating way.
The mission of Madhappy is to make the world more of an optimistic place. What practices are you taking to help create a shift?
More so than making the world a more optimistic place, I believe the real mission of Madhappy is to end the stigma around mental health and the thought that talking about our suffering means weakness. In doing that, we strive to help make the world a more optimistic place. We are still learning and figuring out all the steps that we can take in accomplishing that. From donation releases to our panels on mental health that we host at our pop-ups we try to give back in everything we do, whether it is actual funds to a foundation or a platform for people to share their stories and inspire others. We recently launched a blog on our website to share personal stories, interviews, and updates on what we've been up to. We want the blog to be a space for readers to seek inspiration, validation and share their thoughts with us. Madhappy is more than just clothing, it's a lifestyle choice and it's a community. We are equally eager to share our stories as we are to hear new ones.
I love the terminology you use, ‘local optimists’. Can you tell me a little bit about why this lingo is so important to the brand?
Language is so important when creating a brand. How you communicate with your consumer and what kind of words you are using is something that is very important to us. We want to make sure that we are always consistent and on-brand with our messaging. One of our designers thought of the term “Local Optimist Group” and we all instantly fell in love with it. We feel like it really captures the essence of what it means to be a member of the Madhappy community.
You’re not afraid of color - which we are very happy about. When it comes to choosing each season’s color palette, where does the inspiration begin?
Without a doubt, the inspiration begins with nature. What does the natural world look like during that time of the year? And how do those colors reflect the mood people usually have during that time of the year? All members of our team will look through our Pantone book and pick a few shades that they like, from there we will all meet, sort through everyone’s selections and select the few colors that resonate with all of us moving forward. What I personally love about the colors we pick are the different washes that we use when dying, seeing how colors can change as you infuse them with different techniques is very inspiring.
Are there any new product categories you want to explore as the brand evolves?
I’m always thinking about new categories and bigger projects even if they are months and even years ahead. I have always wanted to make shoes. Sunglasses are something that we are starting to talk about that now. On the fashion side, just being able to have new developments that cater more to a certain time of year and that relate to a city where we pop up. Ski gear for Aspen, silk shirts for Miami.
You were born in Florence and at the age of 18, launched your first clothing line. What did you learn about the business at that time that you’ve applied to your brand now?
I learned a lot. A lot that I still put to use today. I learned the ins and outs. I was fortunate enough that I started this all in downtown Los Angeles, where there are infinite resources. On the creative side, I learned how to source fabric, how to get patterns made, how to edit bodies and how to print on garments. On the business side, I learned how to work with factories, how to build relationships and how to build a sustainable business. While I am still learning every single day, I use a lot of the experience I gained from my teenage years to this day.
Do you remember where you were when you saw someone wearing Madhappy for the first time? What did that feel like?
I remember a shift where the first year of Madhappy I would see someone wearing it and I would be able to trace them back to the brand. Mutual friends or someone that I knew personally. Now I see people wearing it, or I have people telling me that they saw someone wear it who has no connection to the brand or anyone I know. That was a really cool feeling. Knowing that someone else appreciates what we do enough to both invest in it and wear it. When people get dressed in the morning, the clothes they put on represent them. How they feel and how they want to be seen by others. If we can be a part of how people express themselves and communicate with the world, that is such a gift and makes me feel very fulfilled.
If there’s an overall message with your brand that you want everyone who purchases an item to experience, what would it be?
That it’s okay to not be okay. That wearing Madhappy really means more than just wearing clothes. You are wearing something with meaning, with a message that brings people together and reminds us that we have way more in common than we do differently. To feel like you are a part of something and you and welcomed. We are trying to start something, and everyone is invited.