3 under-the-radar millennial designers using their platforms to raise awareness of social issues
It should come as no surprise that in the era of Go Fund Me and social media, fashion designers are on the frontlines of supporting charitable causes. After all, the concept of philanthropic fashion isn’t exactly new. Toms’ One For One movement donates a pair of shoes to a child in need with every purchase; Kenneth Cole is Chairman of The American Foundation for AIDS Research and matches donations up to $100,000; Diane Von Furstenberg donated 10% of her company’s sales during International Women’s Week to Vital Voices, which helps discover and empower influential women.
But recently, some young entrepreneurs have entered the field by giving back through social media campaigns and establishing their companies on the ethos of sustainability, social justice, and other movements. Here, we’ve rounded up three millennial fashion designers who are using their voices and platforms to raise awareness for important social issues.
1Noah Raf, Peiman Raf, Joshua Sitt, and Mason Spector—Mad Happy
Mad Happy was founded by four college students who recently made the Forbes 30 Under 30 Retail and Ecommerce list. Born out of co-founder Mason Spector’s struggles with depression, MadHappy’s colorful pieces promote mental wellbeing and mindfulness. Some of the company’s hoodie slogans include “log off” and “so sorry, no wifi!” which speak to its young customers.
For World Mental Health Day, proceeds from Mad Happy’s “mental capacity” hoodie, above, went towards The Jed Foundation, a non-profit organization that protects emotional health and works to prevents suicide in American teens and young adults. Mad Happy also provides mental health toolkits and has representatives speak on platforms to raise awareness for mental health.
2Samuel Krost—KROST New York
When 26-year-old Krost first established his eponymous streetwear brand, whose motto is “friends supporting friends,” he teamed up with March for Our Lives to end gun violence. Each “semester,” as his collections are called, focuses on spreading awareness and raising money for social issues. Some of KROST New York’s apparel, like its climate change tees, reflect a specific community that needs help; in that case, the brand donated all of the shirts’ proceeds to the Australian Red Cross.
“Throughout my time at NYU, I witnessed firsthand what I believe to have been the beginning of a major cultural shift in society. It was the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, #MeToo movement, and the call for gun reform,” Krost told The Observer about why he initially wanted to make a societal impact.
Krost’s other “semesters” have supported the Australian wildfires, The Eden Reforestation Projects, and recently, the New York City Food Bank amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
3Sarah Harris—Wonder Wears The Gold
30-year-old Sarah Harris started designing underwear with messages about consent, climate change, and body positivity to raise awareness through art. Her pieces for Wonder Wears The Gold are made out of old fabrics and materials so as not to create waste, and her designs are stitched with slogans that hold hidden messages. Ultimately, Harris’ work is meant to make people feel less alone and more understood through shared human experiences.
Whether they’re raising awareness for social issues like climate change, consent, mental health, or gun violence, these under-the-radar millennial-owned brands are using clothing to speak for those without a platform.