Kelowna clothing brand on a mental wellness mission | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna clothing brand on a mental wellness mission

A model wearing Friends of Felix apparel for the brand's website.
Image Credit: Friends of Felix

A Kelowna-based clothing brand has made helping people open up about mental health its mission.

Friends of Felix was started by Austin Penrose and Mahlon Head in 2022. Head and Penrose wanted to make clothes that would start conversations about mental health. 

“Both of us grew up in sports backgrounds so mental health was kind of a huge thing that doesn’t get talked about, especially with young men or young boys in locker rooms and stuff,” Penrose said.

The Friends of Felix clothing line says things like “call us if you get lost,” “a subtle reminder,” and “mental wellness club.”

“We created the brand as a way for people to bridge that gap between those awkward conversations that they might not know how to facilitate,” Penrose said.

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Friends of Felix donates 10 per cent of its proceeds to HeadsUpGuys, a mental health charity out of UBC Vancouver that provides online resources and helps connect people to resources in their area. Penrose says the company is proud of their financial contributions but the goal is to get people talking to each other.

“We try to have these pieces that are a bit more loud and stand out a little bit, like who is Felix? What is Felix?”

“Felix isn’t necessarily a person. In almost every language out there where Felix is a recognized name, it usually has ties to words like happy, joyous, lucky or fortunate. We’re fortunate to be here, even though it may not feel like it all the time for some people,” Penrose said.

Penrose said being able to connect with customers in person has been the most rewarding part about starting the company.

“We’re online-based. All of our sales are through our website except for these one-off pop-up events we do. Sometimes at these events we’ll see people wearing our stuff and they’ll come up to us and tell us and open up about what they’ve been struggling with and what family members have been struggling with so those conversations that we have with our community is the coolest thing,” he said.

The brand has plans to release a new line of designs at the end of 2023 and early 2024, but Penrose hopes to grow the company into something more than just clothing.

“We don’t really know what that would look like yet. We have aspirations to facilitate events, speak at universities, bring mental health to that younger audience and eventually be known as more than a brand for clothing that is committed to mental health,” he said.

Find out more about Friends of Felix here.

Go to HeadsUpGuys here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jesse Tomas or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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