“I’m a big advocate of mental health and mental health awareness, and I think that it’s important to be able to have a way to represent those messages. So, just being able to help anyone in that kind of way has been the most rewarding part if it helps them be happy or helps them have a positive outlook on their day, then that’s what I do it for,” Alaa El-Madhoun, junior studying Apparel Merchandising and Product Development, said.
He has spent the past few weeks creating a clothing line that would not only look cool, but would also make a difference by promoting positive messages and mental health awareness. Misunderstood is the name of the clothing line, something Madhoun and a few of his friends came up with.
An estimated 95% of college counseling center directors surveyed said the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern in their center or on campus, according to a June 2013 American Psychological Association article. One in every 12 U.S. college students makes a suicide plan, according to a January 2016 to USA Today article.
Madhoun spent hours every night after classes doodling, drawing and channeling all of his inspiration into designs.
“The world isn’t made up of one person, everyone is so different and I think that deserves to be shown,” he said.
Madhoun felt he needed to create designs that were simple, fun and affordable while still bringing out his personality. When he created five, unique designs, he took them to his cousin’s print shop, where he learned to screen print.
He waited until he had samples to show before he told anyone what he was planning.
“I think when you open or start anything new, it can be scary to put it out there. It started when I posted the first sample hoodie to my Instagram, and I noticed the amount of likes and comments I received about the hoodie, also receiving messages about how I’m an inspiration really motivated me to go forward on releasing the clothing. This is my idea and I hope you guys like it,” he said.
His brother, Abe, supported his idea, and his friends loved the designs. He asked them to model his shirts, then shared the samples of the clothing on Twitter and Instagram to show them off. Next was officially launching Misunderstood Clothing.
Madhoun said Misunderstood Clothing is unique, because it’s designed to promote a message of unity among all people, including genders.
“I decided to make it gender neutral because I thought it was a cool way to be inclusive,” he said. “I think there is enough separation in the world; I wanted to create something that anyone could feel comfortable wearing. The collection also brings light to those who feel lost, broken, numb to the pain and misunderstood as an individual.”
Madhoun said he finds inspiration for new designs everywhere: in the most ordinary places, people, movies, in something someone else is wearing, in TEDtalks or TV shows. He makes notes on his phone and keeps a sketchbook with him, so he can capture new ideas as they come.
“There’s a lot of goodness in the world and I think if you look for it you can find it,” he said.
Senior Finance major Greg Forte has never met Madhoun, but found out about the upcoming release of the clothing via Instagram.
“Shortly after I followed him, he posted to his story about ideas for his clothing and I thought the samples were nice, I think Misunderstood is such a positive influence just like Stetson and explains his work ethic and personality perfectly,” he said.
Other followers, including Senior Exercise Major, Nick Jackson, was “super excited” after viewing samples of the clothing.
“I was so excited for FYH. The samples of the shirts and hoodies are cool and fashionable and its message is just everything,” he said.
At 20 years old, Madhoun says he is amazed at how many people are willing to get behind him and his brand. Positivity and beauty are trends many people want to be part of. He encourages people to post on social media to spread his messages of love and unity to the world.
“I want to be able to inspire the next generation to go out and achieve their dreams and create their own outlets to become successful. I wanted to create a brand that will grab people's attention and inspire others. Getting support from my friends and family has pushed my work ethic to an all time high,” he said.
Madhoun plans to release Misunderstood merchandise early December 2019 through his personal Instagram page.