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The Happiness Project: How Apparel Can Push the Mental Health Conversation

Mental health is difficult to talk about. Luckily, that’s changing as people become more comfortable discussing the ubiquitous mental illnesses that have pervaded so many of our environments. Jake Lavin, founder of the Happiness Project, wants to use his brand to increase  conversations around mental health. The more comfortable we are discussing these issues, the more comfortable people will be in seeking help. 

That’s the mission of The Happiness Project, a clothing line that aims to “elevate happiness throughout the world” by increasing conversation and donating 15% of their profits toward the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I spoke with Jake this week about the brand’s history, the genesis of their recognizable graphics and what’s next.

The Happiness Project has been around since 2017, but really started picking up steam this last summer of 2020. In 2017, one of Jake’s classmates, Nick Spaid, tragically lost his battle with mental illness. This moment catalyzed the mission of the Happiness Project, encouraging Jake to spread awareness about mental illness through his clothing line. By wearing a hoodie with “The Happiness Project” emboldened across it, it will always prompt people to ask, “What is that?” And just like that, you’re talking with someone about the Happiness Project’s mission and having an open conversation about mental health.

Although the project first started in 2017, it wasn’t until this past summer that Jake and the team started really working on the brand. The hoodies and other products are certainly cool, but the focus is always on the message and the mission. In 2020, they donated over $50,000 to NAMI.org, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, “dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.” The gear itself opens up conversations, while the brand donates 15% of the proceeds towards organizations helping those fighting their battle against mental illness.

Jake and I spoke a bit about the design process as well and how they went about selecting the now iconic colors and logo for the brand. They tested a plethora of color option before settling on the current pastel array you can see available on their website right now. They wanted to opt for “colors that scream happiness at you.” Jake wanted to keep the logo juvenile in a way, “almost  like a kids writing it.” It’s an immensely serious topic, but by presenting it in a more relaxed way, it allows people to approach mental health with less hesitancy.

As far was what’s next for the Happiness Project, a lot of the details are under wraps. They’re working on another drop soon, which will feature tie dye patterns—the result of a full week of dye testing in Jake’s backyard this summer. They also are in talks with some big names about doing awareness events down the line, but some of those plans are on holds due to the pandemic. When I asked Jake for some of his long term goals, he had them locked and loaded: festivals to raise awareness, getting mental health resources into communities that can’t afford them, creating a big factory-like space where people can have fun and hang out that can function as a totally judgement free area.

Between their donations and ability to spread their message, The Happiness Project has certainly made an incredible impact so far. 2020 was huge, but I imagine 2021 will be even bigger. Keep your eye on the brand’s socials and definitely cop a tee or sweatshirt to support the young entrepreneurs, in addition to supporting mental health awareness.

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