Madhappy — Bringing Cheerful Vibes to Street Style
Madhappy — Bringing Cheerful Vibes to Street Style
INTERVIEW BY : NOAH PHAM
Utilizing the idea of pure form and function for high-quality garments produced in Los Angeles, Madhappy is sending their message of optimism and mental awareness via clean-cut, hand-dyed and simplistic streetwear.
Madhappy approaches garments with a statement reinforced by economic and social changes that are taking place in our world. Noah Raf, the co-founder and creative director behind the brand, envisions a parallel in fashion that can also represent and produce a philanthropic benefit outside of clothes. In the midst of opening two new locations in Los Angeles, on Melrose and Abbot Kinney, we caught up with Raf briefly to discuss the highs and lows of co-founding the family-owned brand.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Noah Raf and I am the co-founder of Madhappy, where I oversee all creative efforts including brand, design and overall direction. I was born in Florence, Italy and moved to Los Angeles at a young age. I love to play basketball and spend my time outdoors.
Can you elaborate on the first steps you took to get involved in the fashion industry?
Coming out of high school I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I decided to enroll in community college, which just seemed like the natural next step for me at the time. That taught me to never do things just because it seems like the only option you have. I was lucky enough to be living in Los Angeles and once I knew I wanted to be in fashion, it was the perfect place to start. People don’t often think of LA as a fashion capital but in terms of manufacturers, fabric suppliers and dye houses LA is a hub. That, paired with being fortunate to have some friends and family in the industry, was really vital to my first steps in the business.
What inspired your angle to tap into the market with this brand of yours?
The biggest thing that inspired me personally was my parents. Seeing my mom and dad work together in both architecture and interior design showed me what it was like to bring ideas to life. In addition, it made me want to work with my loved ones and we now have quite the family affair at Madhappy. I feel so lucky to be able to work with my brother and my closest friends everyday. Aside from that, we truly believe in being inclusive and kind. Build something that had an open-door policy, where everyone is welcome — not something where you’re unsure if you’re cool enough to be a part of it.
How important is mental health to you and your brand?
Whether you are consciously aware of it or not, mental health is extremely important to everyone. It is how we feel when we get up in the morning, it is how we interact with others throughout our day and it is how we view ourselves. Madhappy wouldn’t exist if not for our relationship with mental health. Mental health goes way beyond what we do. We want to be a part of the conversation and use our platform to educate as many people as possible.
How do you feel about the hours people spend on the Internet and how it affects mental health?
The Internet has changed the world for better and for worse. I believe its really all relative. Someone can spend hours a day on the Internet being productive and learning. Others can spend those same hours mindlessly surfing the web. I think it depends on how the rest of your life looks outside of technology. If you are using it as something to distract you and medicate, then it will probably be harmful to your mental health. If you are prioritizing self-care and spend hours a day on the Internet doing things that you enjoy, who am I to say that will negatively affect your mental health? That being said, don’t spend any more time in front of a screen than you have to; get outside!
Aside from the non-profits you work with, are there any others you aim to expand your charitable causes to?
We’re always looking to partner with new organizations and expand our charity program. I would love to work with some non-profits outside of America and start to do some work in third-world countries.
What has been your biggest accomplishment with Madhappy at this point?
I think my biggest accomplishment is something that we are still actively working on and building and that is creating a conversation around mental health. Aside from cool collaborations or pop-ups I feel like our ongoing work around mental health really has been the most impactful and powerful work that we’ve done so far. Being able to encourage people to speak up, not be afraid to be themselves and really reflect on who they are is more important than fashion can ever be.
What milestones would you like to see materialize for Madhappy in five years?
That’s a good one. It’s tough to think so far ahead when you are really in the thick of things everyday. I would love to do something in music. (As I said before that is another huge passion of mine.) A Madhappy festival has always been a dream of ours. A place where all of our interests can come together and coexist. Clothing, music and art. Expanding what we do beyond just clothes, food and beverage has already really intrigued me as well.
When did you decide that fashion and design would be the passion you wanted to pursue?
Anytime I do something I really try to be all in. As soon as I stopped going to Santa Monica College I really committed to learning the business of fashion as well as what it takes to really build a brand.
Who were early inspirations for your personal creative outlets?
Living in Italy for nearly the first decade of my life, I feel like I subconsciously absorbed a lot of that style and aesthetic. Looking at the things I like now, I feel like it was all inspired by ’90s Italian style. Music has always been a huge part of my life as well. I remember seeing the album cover for Californication for the first time and just freezing. I feel like that was the first time I really started to understand color and the emotional reactions that we can have to it.
Being a self-starter and running your own business, was it difficult at first? What were some obstacles you encountered?
It was definitely difficult at first. And at times it is still difficult. I don’t expect that to ever change. Some of the biggest obstacles to start were learning how to be patient. Learning to be okay with failure. Knowing that it was going to take time to get the brand to where I wanted it to be. Knowing what I know and more importantly what I didn’t know. Being able to learn to ask for help. Trusting others. I try and view obstacles more as opportunities.
How did you learn all of the trades outside of design to operate your brand?
I think real life, hands-on experiences have taught me the most. I am still learning so much. My brother, whom I work with, went to business school so he has helped me learn a ton outside of design. Books and podcasts have been super helpful also. But having not graduated college, I think I really owe all my knowledge to just life experience.