The largely unisex brand encourages people to speak about mental illness.
by Manjula Ramakrishnan
More and more people are coming forward to speak about mental health issues, willing to share their experiences. Heartknoxx is a fashion brand that aims to make mental health awareness a trend. The brand’s founder Helen Hope had gone through internal struggles herself.
“I often brushed aside my struggles with an ‘I am fine.’ However, during my recovery phase I realised that I was only using this statement to mask something much deeper. When I decided to open up about my struggles, the support I received was incredibly surprising and knowing I wasn’t alone helped me bounce back.
“With Heartknoxx, my aim was to create a brand that would bring me back to life, do something I loved, while also demystifying the topic of mental illness. The objective was to create an edgy yet purposeful clothing label.’’
Originating from the UK, the brand has now been launched in the UAE. Following is a conversation with Helen Hope.
How did your own personal struggles lead to the launching of this brand?
Having been made redundant twice in six months, I was at an all time low. My personal battle with chronic anxiety and panic attacks were further triggered by the stint of unemployment in early 2018. When I eventually reached breaking point, I made the decision and returned back to Liverpool to seek medical treatment. I spent two months feeling very sorry for myself, but I didn’t want to give up. I’ve always felt I was destined to work in retail and felt passionate about continuing in this field despite the blip.I asked myself if I were to go back and do my life over, what would I do differently. The answer was still working in fashion, but this time, working towards a career with purpose. I didn’t just want to create a fashion brand; I wanted to create something that actually helped people.
What is the working philosophy behind Heartknoxx?
The brand’s strap line is ‘Define your difference’ because we believe it is the person that makes the clothes and not the other way around. Our aim is to challenge the status quo and get people to have conversations with our slogans, not just about mental health, but also consumerism and gender. That’s why 80 per cent of our collections are designed to be unisex.
What is the link between mental health awareness and the brand?
I guess I am. Had it not been for my own personal journey, I wouldn’t feel so passionate about demystifying the topic of mental illnesses. Mental illness is such a spectrum. I think most people's perception of this is still very outdated, which is what put me in such a bad position. I felt too scared to tell people about what I was feeling which ultimately made it worse. There are so many people out there who suffer in silence. People in very high powered positions that go to work and function perfectly well on the surface, but in their private lives are a complete wreck unnecessarily. My mission is to give them a platform to be able to say ‘It’s Ok not to feel Ok.’
Why the name Heartknoxx?
Heartknoxx is a play on Heart Knocks, which indicates the sensation of your heart beating racing or fluttering when you feel anxious. I liked the idea of putting my own spin on the word and using XX at the end as a way of blowing a kiss to the silent sufferers.
Have the customers been open talking about mental health?
Surprisingly yes. I haven't met a single person who hasn’t found my story relatable, be it from their own experiences or a friend or family member which is why I think it resonates with so many people.
How has the experience of sharing your struggles with the friendly people of Dubai been?
The first few weeks were really scary. I was worried about what people might think of me, but the more I have put myself out there and just been honest, the better I’ve been received.
How has the journey been so far?
Incredible! Last year I was sitting on my sofa wishing the earth would just swallow me up; fast forward to this year being invited by Virgin radio telling my story and advocating mental health awareness. From being a sufferer to becoming the creator of a brand, the journey has been very rewarding.