Maison de Choup founder, social entrepreneur and artist George Hodgson takes us on his journey from crippling anxiety to being named the winner of the British Fashion Startup Awards 2016. Over the past three years, George has taken Maison de Choup from strength to strength. It has evolved from a single voice into a unique collective of young artists and designers creating a contemporary minimalist aesthetic with a social conscience. Aligned with the charity Young Minds, Maison de Choup donates 25% of all proceeds from the ‘words fail me’ garment to the charity which works with young people as a voice for mental health and wellbeing. Here, George takes us behind the brand of Maison de Choup.

Image: Maison de Choup
Image: Maison de Choup

Stemming from my severe anxiety episode of 3 years back in 2014, Maison de Choup started as a mere project in my father’s office. I began by putting the sketches I’d frantically drawn through the height of my anxiety onto T-Shirts in Photoshop, as I did this I thought to myself “I could take this further to create something beautiful”.

When I became ill, I was fortunate enough to be sent for care privately by my parents, but for those who can’t go privately it is very difficult to get help. I was told by CAHMS that I would have to wait 40 weeks before being able to see anyone which isn’t good enough – something terrible could’ve happened in that time. So what happens to these young people that can’t get private help? Well, there are resources out there to help them, YoungMinds Charity is one of them and that’s why I have partnered with them, because they help other young mental health sufferers. I know what it’s like to be that young person suffering because I was that young person.

I decided I wanted to create a brand that raised awareness about mental health but also gave back to those who helped me. That’s why we created the Words Fail Me T-Shirt. The ‘Words Fail Me’ word-search sums up what anxiety sufferers feel when they are unable to express themselves and it also expresses what their families and friends feel at times too. 25% of the proceeds from each ‘Words Fail Me’ tee sold is donated to YoungMinds to help other young sufferers. It’s our way of saying thank you for their work.

Image: Maison de Choup
Image: Maison de Choup

There is still such a stigma surrounding mental health and this needs to change. With so many young people suffering and feeling like they can’t openly talk, I am trying to encourage them to open up by talking about my own personal experience with anxiety, giving keynote speeches and running school workshops on the importance of being open if you suffer, stressing the fact that you are not alone.

Stigma aside, more and more people are beginning to speak on the topic, meaning the situation is beginning to improve – especially with the Royals getting involved and raising awareness through their new organisation ‘Heads Together’. I believe that the future of social entrepreneurship lies in creating a product which has some form of value to the customer – small independent brands that have meaning behind them and that give back to society rather than huge high street brands.

Maison de Choup for me, has been about creating a brand that becomes synonymous with helping mental health sufferers get the help they need and I want to encourage, through Maison de Choup, that people who suffer from a mental illness can still live normal lives and create amazing things. I couldn’t leave my bedroom, let alone the house at one stage. Three years on, I have created a fashion brand born out of my anxiety, as well as giving keynote speeches and workshops. Something I could never have imagined back in my darkest days.

Since that day back in 2014, Maison de Choup has gone from strength to strength. The goal is to spread awareness through fashion but to also remain a fashionable brand with sound ethics that people love wearing. I aim to continue working with YoungMinds, helping young sufferers and I can also excitingly announce that we are currently in the final stages of our latest collection which is due to launch shortly. Stay tuned!

Make sure you check out the Maison de Choup website at maisondechoup.co.uk

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