Madhappy Is Building a Brand Around Hoodies and Mental Health

Mar 14, 2019

Madhappy Is Building a Brand Around Hoodies and Mental Health

The Los Angeles brand's young co-founders just raised their first round of funding from an influential group of investors looking to sell happiness in the form of a hoodie.

Dhani Mau

While reporting a story last year about burgeoning Los Angeles streetwear brands, I was met with some slightly too-cool-for-school attitudes by a few of their founders. I wasn't particularly surprised or even bothered by it, but it made one founder's palpable positivity and appreciation — which could be felt even through Instagram DM — stand out. That was Peiman Raf of the two-year-old brand Madhappy. As it turns out, that's exactly the vibe Raf set out to create along with his co-founders. "We wanted to try to create a very optimistic and positive brand in a time we thought a lot of brands were very negative and closed off," he tells me.

The four co-founders — Raf, his older brother Noah Raf and friends Joshua Sitt and Mason Spector — were all in their early 20s when Spector came up with the name: "Madhappy." None of them had much work experience of any kind — Noah Raf and Spector started a clothing company in high school and Noah did some celebrity styling — nor did they have a business plan initially. Ultimately, Madhappy turned into a few SKUs of streetwear styles: hoodies, sweatpants, T-shirts and hats bearing the sans-serif logo as well as peace signs and phrases, which launched in April of 2017. Nearly two years later, the brand has only just crystallized what it wants to be, but the co-founders have been busy in the meantime.

They've opened seven pop-ups — two in LA, two in New York, two in Aspen and one in Miami — with panel discussions and block parties (they closed down all of Melrose Place in LA); collaborated with a range of businesses including Colette, Jon and Vinnys, Pencils of Promise and Alfred Coffee; and built something of a cult following. The customer base is 60 percent female, 40 percent male and the product offering now reflects that with core styles cut for men and women, as well as some unisex pieces. The brand has already amassed more than 19k Instagram followers thanks to its well-connected young founders, fun parties and a diverse group of influential early supporters including influencer Olivia Perez, Gigi and Anwar Hadid, Sofia Richie, 2 Chainz, The Weeknd, The Chainsmokers, Cardi B and Kacey Musgraves. "She came into the Melrose store and we spoke for a while; she loved the brand," says Raf of Musgraves. The brand even designed something custom for her to wear on tour and hopes to work with her more in the future.

Raf says the buzz and celebrity placements have all been organic, and the product inherently draws people in thanks to the brand name and, like many successful "Instagram brands," a design signature. "When people started wearing our hoodies, the hood stitch became very recognizable," he says. "You hear the word 'madhappy' and you have your own interpretation of it, but it's pretty easy to understand and support." While social media has been helpful in building awareness, IRL experiences are a big focus for the brand.

It's this idea of building a community that has lead to the brand's next phase, beginning with the announcement on Thursday of a seed funding round led by an impressive group of strategic investors from the realms of e-commerce, media, entertainment, fashion and real estate — all challenging areas in which the co-founders hoped to gain more insight. They include the founders of Sweetgreen, MeUndies, Alfred Coffee and College Fashionista, as well as Justin Caruso, son of real estate magnate and The Grove owner Rick Caruso. They've raised between $1-2 million, but, to the co-founders, gaining a strong team of advisors was more important than an amount of money. "Someone could put in as little as $10k but still make a huge impact with the advice they could give us," says Raf.

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