When an inanimate object declares that its purpose it to “raise awareness,” I run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. Mainly because it signals the sentient robots that pull the strings of our planet have finally unmasked themselves, but also because somewhere, in a boardroom high above New York City, a corporate ghoul is about to make some money off your empathy. (Or need to impress your friends—pick one!)
Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), fast fashion-couture-perfume-makeup-jewelry-beverage retailer, recently invested $1.5 million in luxury streetwear brand Madhappy. Fast Company reports that the line of hoodies and was founded by four “twenty-somethings” in Los Angeles who wanted to make “the world a more optimistic place by creating conversations around mental health.” Their plan? Print slogans like “Optimism” across $160 sweatshirts and sweatpants. In a statement, cofounder Peiman Raf explains:
“Growing up, we found that many streetwear labels seemed to be very exclusive, and we wanted to create a brand that was the opposite of that. But we want to take it a step further and start conversations about mental health. Many of our events are focused on talking about mental health issues that most people don’t often talk about publicly.”
But who exactly is served by mental health “awareness” when it’s peddled by luxury fashion retailers? At this price point, the clothing is largely inaccessible to anyone who’s not an athleisure-clad Instagram influencer (and even then). Madhappy pop-ups in places like Aspen, Colorado—a veritable den of the vacationing elite—also speak to the brand’s awareness of its well-heeled consumer base. Raf claims streetwear brands have long been “exclusive,” but again, this price point is on par with your average Supreme drop.
For what it’s worth, Madhappy keeps a regularly updated “blog” on mental health called Local Optimist. It features original writing from people dealing with everything from depression to bipolar disorder, and even an infinitely scrollable photo log ripped straight from your depressed, teenage Tumblr. Alongside these personal essays, though, are links to buy clothes and affirmations of the Madhappy brand identity. Even though their brand is centered on optimism, the business model is pretty cynical.