Fashion: Cambs student makes clothes with meaning
Created to raise awareness for men’s mental health, new fashion brand Indoor Kites is flying high. For student founder Conrad Jennings, it’s very much a passion project, as Izzy Crow discovers
In less than two years, it’s raised hundreds for charity and can count professional sportsmen among its fans: sold in aid of mental health charity CALM, fashion brand Indoor Kites is an enterprise with heart and soul, as well as style.
The brainchild of student Conrad Jennings, a former Kimbolton pupil who now studies history at Bristol, it was inspired by his own experiences of depression and anxiety, and driven by a desire to both raise awareness and help fund support.
Attracting attention from the media - among other things, Conrad has spoken about the project on primetime BBC radio - and from athletes, including Northampton Saints rugby player Harry Mallinder, the brand has come a long way in a short time. With Indoor Kites’ annual October 10 Collection having just dropped to coincide with World Mental Health Day, Conrad reflects on the journey to date.
First of all, please could you explain the meaning behind Indoor Kites?
Essentially, the name Indoor Kites is a metaphor for depression. You can’t fly a kite indoors – it is useless and trapped. It was an image that resonated with me when trying to explain the feeling of uselessness I felt when dealing with some strong emotions. I know that others have felt like this, especially men, where there is greater stigma surrounding the conversation of mental health.
How was Indoor Kites born?
During school I suffered from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and so I turned to a creative outlet which helped to take my mind off of my own problems. It gave me the motivation and focus to create something I was passionate about. It originally wasn’t set up for charitable or business purposes – it was merely a coping mechanism.
100% of profits go to CALM. How much has been donated so far?
Last year donations reached £786, which was really incredible for its first year. This year I hope to match and beat it with the October 10th Collection.
CALM is a charity specifically set up to tackle the stigma surrounding men’s mental health. I thought this was extremely important because men are less willing to openly talk about their emotions. I’m passionate about this because I have been that person who’s struggled and seen others that have suffered in silence. As a charity they actively encourage men to discuss their feelings and make it an open discussion.
Please explain how the donated money helps men struggling with their mental health.
All the money donated helps the CALM services to continue, which in turn helps to save lives. They run a hotline seven hours a day, seven days a week, where people can simply just pick up the phone and talk. During 171 days of lockdown CALM helped prevent 210 suicides.
Donations also go to fundraising charity events, and also to help something called SASP (Support After Suicide Partnership). This workshop helps bereaved families to get the support they need after losing a loved one. Now more than ever they need donations to help deal with the mental health crisis that has worsened in lockdown.
Can you speak from personal experience, after receiving mental health support at university?
Yes. When I finally got the help I needed, the support was very good. My counsellors made me feel welcome and created a safe environment. However, the problem is that university services are simply overwhelmed. In Bristol, there is a minimum of a three-month waiting list.
What is the inspiration behind the clothing graphics?
The ideas - the images and themes - have all been things that have come to mind when visualising mental health. For example, Area 25 is a part of the brain that specifically deals with depression and anxiety – I felt this was perfect for our Real Men Cry T-shirt. For the current collection, I thought of the butterfly wing because it is one of the most fragile materials to exist. This translated nicely into the delicacy of the mind, and it also shows that someone might appear resilient at face value, but they are really struggling internally. From this I came up with the catch line of Handle with Care.
Is it important for you to support young creatives who help with the brand?
It is very important because the brand started as a creative outlet for me, so it made sense to support other young creatives. A graphic design student I have worked with, Annabelle Wells, has been instrumental in bringing my ideas to life. She is clear on the brand’s ethos, so it has been great having her on board to reflect our message into the clothing.
What are your plans for the future of the brand?
At the moment I just want the brand to continue to grow and spread a positive message. My dream is for it one day to become a charity or a foundation of some sort. I would also love to walk past someone wearing Indoor Kites – that way they would be supporting a great cause in a fashionable way.
What advice would you give to someone struggling right now?
Don’t sit on negative feelings – take action and get help. Whether that be talking to friends and family or seeking professional help. Both have been so important for me in realising that I’m going to feel better. Also utilise the free and accessible helplines that are out there. Please never feel ashamed or embarrassed.
To find out more about CALM - the Campaign Against Living Miserably - visit thecalmzone.net . CALM’s hotline number is 020 3697 9331.
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