As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week (if you didn’t know already) I decided to find a clothing brand that has mental health at its heart. I found Fandabby. I spoke to the owner Lewis Edgar. He’s a graphic designer from Aberdeen in Scotland and is also the designer of the not-for-profit mental health clothing line Fandabby.
Here he answers some of my questions about Fandabby, about mental health and some of those more “controversial” questions.
When and how did the idea for Fandabby Apparel (FA) come about?
Before I hit a rough time in my life, I was studying graphic communication at college. I loved this and it was a huge passion of mine to become a graphic designer.
But with stress from the course and other stresses combined, I became ill.
I was admitted to a mental health hospital to get better, and to receive the help which I desperately needed.
Whilst I was an inpatient, I found myself struggling to express my feelings and expressions, to both myself and staff.
I felt alone and lost.
One day I decided to take up sketching in a form of self-expression.
I found this very therapeutic and rediscovered creativity and the skills from my college course.
It felt like my brain was rebooted.
It allowed me to express myself on paper.
This was a huge turning point for me. I drew typography, trees, scribbles and even a thumbs up!
I started wondering what I could do with these sketches. Would I throw them out? Or could I use them for a greater cause? What was the meaning of drawing a thumbs up in such a low place? Then it struck me! I was trying to find hope. The hope which I had lost!
This message of hope spurred me on to use my background in graphic design to create a brand. A brand about mental health!
Within two to three weeks I came up with a name and a logo. All based off of one simple sketch of a thumbs up!
I used some of my sketches as inspiration for my final designs and the rest is what you see today!
All profits from my business are donated to YoungMinds and Rethink Mental Illness, two great mental health charities based in the UK, with whom I work closely with.
Why is it called Fandabby?
Fandabby comes from the Scottish word “Fandabby(dozy) ; Fandabby(dosie) “.
Meaning: “Everything is good”, i.e “I’m fine”.
But are you? We all say it. We’re all scared to admit our problems to others, perhaps out of shame or embarrassment.
This is causing society to bottle everything up, leading us to become stressed and in some cases becoming mentally ill. Talk the truth, how are you? Only say “I’m fine” if you truly are.
If you’re not, have a good rant!
Why is it important to you to have Fandabby?
Fandabby has given me hope in my own mental health challenges, and I try my best to convey this to others – ‘Bad days make the good days shine!’ is the quote I live my daily life by.
It has also allowed me to convey my hatred for stigma against mental health.
This was where I quickly developed the hashtag #RemoveTheLabel. In doing so, allowing me to give back to charities which are close to my heart.
Helping people through difficult times is also a reason it is important to me.
I really care about EVERYONE. Not just customers.
Some people do not recognise, I am not selling clothing primarily to eliminate stigma but to also spread love and hope.
I know how hard and touchy a subject like mental health can be.
I use Fandabby to generate a sense of hope and to educate others about self-care, as self-care has helped me a lot through my own challenges.
I found people were leaving negative comments about ‘self-care’.
Self care can just be a 1-minute thoughtful pause at work, school or at home.
This was when I developed CareTime, a product dedicated to ‘finding time’.
Do you think fashion can help people with mental health problems?
If done in a controlled and compassionate manner like Fandabby is, I would hope so!
However, social media has made the world of fashion a very competitive place for fame or bragging rights.
Everybody wants the newest top, hat, shoes… you name it!
There are so many pressures in today’s society concerning fashion. Especially in schools.
This is why I have kept Fandabby very simple with limited options.
Each t-shirt is ‘Made with Care for Care’.
I NEVER hire MODELS either! I invite people who have purchased an item to take a photo of themselves with their item on social media, then I feature it on the products page.
I believe ‘Everyone is a model’, no matter what you wear, and no matter what shape or size. You are all beautiful!
Is fashion something that’s important to you?
Fashion, again if done in the right way, is important to me.
But more on an impact level than a personal one.
I believe fashion has a strong connection with how we feel, colours also.
I have combined both into all my designs.
Colour psychology deeply interests me.
Do you feel people can express their mental health problems through the way they dress?
Personally, I think this is a very controversial question. I will answer it anyway.
I feel people cannot express their mental health problems fully, based on the way they dress because society is so busy doing other things.
This is why some of my designs are quite and some are very loud.
Some also have personal or hidden meaning.
People buy into something for a reason and by accepting this I think expression comes from it.
I never judge a person based their fashion.
Sometimes a good chat or even the simplest of smiles can provide help and hope to someone going through mental health challenges.
And finally, why do you think it’s important to support Mental Health Awareness Week?
Mental Health Awareness Week is important because it brings the conversation to the forefront in the media.
This is what is needed to #RemoveTheLabel attached to mental health but on a much grander scale.
I treat every week as mental health awareness week.
If the conversation is not continued after it stigma will never be removed and will cause people to not approach help because of it.
Lewis wanted to add a final message.
Thank you for reading.
As you can probably tell mental health is very close to my heart. I am still recovering from my own mental health challenges, does this surprise you?
I do not let my diagnosis’ define me.
I have good days then I have bad days. We all have them! Hope is a very powerful thing.
If you need help, or you know someone who does, please reach out. It will be the best thing you have ever done!
You can call the lovely people at the Samaritans 116 123 (UK) or I have compiled a worldwide list of numbers you can call on Fandabby.
I have also partnered with an online listening service called 7Cups. Please take a look.
Here’s Lewis’ Twitter if you want to look at his mental health activism work!