Madhappy: It Takes a Party to Start a T-shirt Brand
Ask Noah Raf how to build demand for a new T-shirt label and he’ll tell you to throw a party.
His Los Angeles–based Madhappy label hosted free parties for hundreds of people in a 12-month period after it started in April 2017. At pop-up shops on Los Angeles’ Robertson Boulevard; Melrose Place in West Hollywood, Calif.; in Aspen, Colo.; and the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y., Madhappy produced free events with DJs and an open bar. There were displays of Madhappy tees and hoodies, but their focus was on the parties. Raf and his partners did not make a big deal about selling clothes at the events.
The hospitality paid off. Many of the partyers searched for the label’s online direct-to-consumer channel, where they paid $60 for a T-shirt bearing the Madhappy logo. In September, the company opened a 1,500-square-foot office in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District. The label’s partners are pitching the company for what will be its first round of capital funding. Seed money was raised from friends soon after Noah Raf started the company with his brother Peiman Raf, Mason Spector and Joshua Sitt.
Madhappy’s group of entrepreneurs are all in their early 20s. Through social media, parties at their pop-up shops and what they believe is good design, this group has made a splash.
Noah Raf’s first fashion line ended with a flop in 2016 after he and Spector designed a high-end menswear collection that failed. Despite this unsuccessful venture, the duo decided to make another attempt at fashion.
Instead of high-end styles, they planned to go for something with a more popular edge: tees, hoodies and sweats. It’s something everyone could share, Noah Raf said. “We wanted to create a community. We wanted to build a community-driven lifestyle that promotes mental health, optimism and inclusion.”
Madhappy manufactures tees and hoodies for women and men in Los Angeles. For tees, it offers several silhouettes including shirts with a boxy fit. It also offers more-fitted styles and crop-top T-shirts. Many of the tees are plain, except for the Madhappy logo on the top left-hand side of the shirt. Other tees feature a graphic of the peace sign.
The T-shirts go through a high-enzyme wash to make the garments soft to the touch. Retail price points for the tees range from $60 to $70.
The hoodies feature the brand’s most fashion-savvy element. The seams of the garment’s hood bear unique hand stitching. Due to this, Peiman Raf said that no two hoodies are alike. The brand currently only sells fashion on its direct-to-consumer channel. Yet, for one of its few forays into wholesale, it placed some goods at Parisian specialty store Colette. The prominent store closed at the end of 2017, but before it closed Madhappy produced a commemorative hoodie bearing the words “Au Revoir Colette.” Colette chief Sarah Andelman reportedly wore the hoodie on the week of the acclaimed shop’s closing, Noah Raf said. Retail price points for the hoodies range from $120 to $150.
Eventually, the brand will explore wholesale again, according to Noah Raf. It also plans to produce more pop-up shops. Along with parties, the pop-up events will offer panels and speakers on mental health, he said. “Whether you are a celebrity or an average person, everyone is going through something. We want to create an atmosphere where everyone can talk on the issue.”