Outside, there’s the grey granite of Aberdeen. Inside, there’s a colourful range of T-shirts and accessories designed to get people talking for better mental health.
Lewis Edgar started his Fandabby label after a spell of mental illness and is now looking to reach a global audience.
He says: “The Fandabby name comes from the slang word ‘Fandabbydozy’. Which most Scots use as a way to say “I’m fine” -but really, are you? I designed Fandabby’s t-shirts to be globally recognised because I wanted to spread the word of mental health worldwide.”
The range is fun, bright and sunny, which couldn’t contrast more with the grey Scottish skies under which Lewis works. But the designer is working hard on hammering the dark clouds out of the sky with the help of friends, family, and medication.
He says: “I’m proudly still living in Aberdeen where it can be a little cold sometimes, much like the rest of Scotland. The grey granite does not help with my Seasonal Affective Disorder, but medication and family helps with this.”
The injection of colour and style into the serious matter of mental health is a welcome ray of hope. Despite the recent drop of suicide rates across Scotland, the country still has a higher suicide rate than England – 14 per 100,000.
Globally, the World Health Organisation estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide – a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000, or one death every 40 seconds. And it is predicted that by 2020 the rate of death will increase to one every 20 seconds.
Lewis is a human face and ray of sunshine among the bleak statistics, who has had his demons to battle. After attending school, Lewis went on to college to pursue graphic design. It was, he says, a very stressful course with lots of assessments and constant pressure to do better than his peers. But the creative skills learned at college seem to have stood Lewis in good stead.
“The idea of the Fandabby T-shirt range came to me while I was an in-patient at Aberdeen’s Royal Cornhill Hospital in 2013. I don’t know if it was the medication or my own brain wanting some creativity, but I am really glad I did it. It has taken three years, but I know myself that I need to take my own time in approaching such things, as to not overdo it,” he says.
“The main reason I decided to start up the range was due to seeing the stigma of mental health on people online, including to myself. I wanted to make a positive change to an often dull and less-talked about subject. Since starting my clothing line I have seen a gradual decrease in stigma, but it very much still exists – that is why I set up the #RemoveTheLabel movement hashtag.”
Lewis has also teamed up with two mental health charities which he donates profits too – YoungMindsUK, who offer help to young people and offer a hotline for parents needing advice on how to deal with juvenile mental health issues; and Rethink Mental Illness, who support adults with all types of mental health issues.
Today, he juggles plates like a true multi-tasker. He’s involved in all the stages of production – including design. His T-shirts, bags and bracelets are a fruit cocktail of colours that make people smile, with slogans that make people talk. In fact, encouraging people to talk is one of the key messages of his brand.
“If you’re suffering from mental illness, do not be afraid to chat about it. This is 2017 and we should be able to talk about anything we wish. You may think it might burden a person but in reality you do not know how the other person is doing – a broken arm is visible and mental health is not!”
It’s not just talking that Lewis tackles. “Outside of design I deal with customer care, which is really important to me, and is a part of the things I enjoy. Plus, I take care of all shipping and sales – plus marketing!
You can buy Lewis’s Fandabby range at Fandabby.net or get involved in the conversation on Twitter using the #Removethelabel hashtag.
If you’re feeling suicidal, you can call the Samaritans anonymously and completely free on 116 123, and don’t forget to seek advice from your GP as soon as possible.