Cerebral Clothing: Manchester fashion label on a mission to speak about mental health after suicide tragedy

Cerebral Clothing was founded as a vehicle for the messages entrepreneurs Dan Lloyd and Charley Rich wanted to spread after a friend of theirs took his own life.
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A Manchester fashion label is on a mission to champion and spread the word about the importance of mental health after it was founded in the wake of tragedy.

Dan Lloyd and Charley Rich founded Cerebral Clothing after a friend of theirs took his own life in 2019, aged just 19. The company has just unveiled its new collection of urban leisurewear which contains slogans and messages referring to mental health which also subtly pay tribute to their friend. Cerebral Clothing are also donating a percentage of their profits to Manchester Mind to support its work on mental health in the city and have picked up high-profile backing in the form of two rugby league stars from the North West who are equally passionate about raising awareness.

How was Cerebral Clothing founded?

High school friends Charley and Dan, who are both now 23, founded Cerebral Clothing after deciding it would be a good way of combining their talents in business. It was also clear to them that Manchester was the right base for their fledgling concern.

Dan said: “We spend a lot of time in Manchester, if we are going out for food or drinks that’s where we will be. There’s also a really strong sense of community in Manchester and we feel we are part of that. You’ve got Parklife festival, the markets at Christmas, the One Love concert, that kind of thing. There’s a real community atmosphere and we wanted to be part of that.”

Charley added: “Dan and I are into our fashion, that’s common ground for us, and we weighed up the options and found we would work best together with our skillsets as a clothing brand.”

Cerebral Clothing founders Dan Lloyd and Charley Rich (centre) flanked by Warrington Wolves rugby league players and brand supporters Pete Mata’utia and Stefan RatchfordCerebral Clothing founders Dan Lloyd and Charley Rich (centre) flanked by Warrington Wolves rugby league players and brand supporters Pete Mata’utia and Stefan Ratchford
Cerebral Clothing founders Dan Lloyd and Charley Rich (centre) flanked by Warrington Wolves rugby league players and brand supporters Pete Mata’utia and Stefan Ratchford

However, the defining event behind the founding and direction of Cerebral Clothing was the death by suicide, aged just 19, of a close friend. That means that the business is about far more than just creating and selling hoodies, T-shirts and sweatshirts.

Charley said: “The clothing is a vehicle for our messages about mental health. When our friend killed himself we came to the realisation that this is an invisible epidemic which is running riot through men and women of all ages. After that happened we didn’t really know that anything was going on with him. It came completely out of the blue and really affected both of us in a way that we really can’t describe in a number of words. That’s why we are so strong on pushing the message and we thought clothing was the best medium to do that.”

Dan said: “It sounds cliched but our friend was always the guy who was constantly laughing. He would brighten up a day and he was a notable presence in any room. His death was a really big shock to us all. People are so good at covering up symptoms. Anyone can be suffering and we just don’t know.”

What are the messages about mental health Cerebral Clothing wants to spread?

Cerebral Clothing’s 2023 collection is made up of comfortable unisex garments with an urban aesthetic, including tracksuits, twin sets, loungewear and baseball caps. The words on the clothes also get across the company’s messages about mental health while also paying tribute to Dan and Charley’s friend who lost his life.

Some of the new garments, for example, come with ‘care instructions’ which are a play on the washing instructions on clothing labels but instead give advice like getting outside in the fresh air and remembering to have periods of time without looking at a mobile phone.

Charley and Dan are keen to raise awareness of mental health and contribute to getting rid of the lingering stigmas which can prevent people speaking about their feelings and thoughts, contrasting the level of acceptability of discussing physical and mental health in society.

Cerebral Clothing supports mental health with its messagingCerebral Clothing supports mental health with its messaging
Cerebral Clothing supports mental health with its messaging

Charley said: “Mental health is invisible to the naked eye, contrary to physical health. If you’ve grazed your nee or broken your ankle or fractured your arm you are not scared to tell someone. There’s a stigma around mental health which means people just don’t talk.

“The only way we can help people is when they start to open up about what they are going through with people close to them like their peers or family. We want to talk openly about our own troubles, what we have been through and how we have dealt with problems. That will show that it’s just as easy to talk about your problems as talking to a doctor about a sprained wrist.”

Dan said: “It’s about creating that discussion and helping everyone to understand that it should be as easy to talk about this as about physical health. Mental and physical health are two sides of the same coin, they both make up your health, but we can freely talk about one while the other is more of a taboo subject.

“We want to change the way young people communicate, as well as improving the overall attitude towards mental health in general.”

High-profile support from the world of rugby league

Cerebral Clothing has also picked up some high-profile backing from rugby league. with the brand and its ideas being enthusiastically endorsed by Warrington Wolves players Stefan Ratchford and Pete Mata’utia.

Samoa international Pete said: “Charley and Dan’s story of losing their best friend was something that resonated with me because I’ve been through that situation myself and now I’m a big advocate for mental health.

“I try to get people to understand that it’s not the load we carry, it’s how we carry it. If we’re not speaking to each other about mental health, that’s when the load becomes heavy.”

Fullback Stefan, who has played at international level for England, said: “After meeting the team at Cerebral and listening to the story of the brand it was obvious that I should get involved and support them.

Pete Mata’utia and Stefan Ratchford from Warrington WolvesPete Mata’utia and Stefan Ratchford from Warrington Wolves
Pete Mata’utia and Stefan Ratchford from Warrington Wolves

“Too often, people are told to ‘man up’ or ‘just get on with it’. Cerebral’s message that people need to open up about mental health is so important.”

Charley and Dan are delighted by the support they have received from Stefan and Pete.

Charley said: “They wanted to endorse the brand due to their own experiences with mental health. The message is really close to Pete’s heart. We want people who have experiences of our message and who will come on this journey with us.”

Dan added: “It links back to authenticity, which is a big value of ours. We’re not exclusive but we want people to be genuinely behind the message and who have a real connection to what we are about.

“We want to be working with people such as Pete, Stefan and the guys at Warrington who align with our values because our message is paramount.”

Supporting mental health in Manchester and future plans

Cerebral Clothing is also donating 10% of its profits to Manchester Mind, one of 105 Mind organisations throughout the country.

Dan said: “Mind is a household name and being partnered with them is a way for us to say what we are about. We don’t want to have no evidence to show we are about mental health and we are genuinely serious and passionate about this.

“It also ties in with Manchester, and everything from the photographers to the studios we use to our models are Manchester based. It makes sense to partner with a local charity to keep that community feel.”

Cerebral Clothing produces garments which contain messages about mental healthCerebral Clothing produces garments which contain messages about mental health
Cerebral Clothing produces garments which contain messages about mental health

Joanna Huddart from Manchester Mind said: “We’re touched by the kind commitment made by Cerebral Clothing, as their charity efforts will spark important conversations surrounding men’s mental health, whilst raising vital funds in aid of our services.

“Manchester Mind are so proud to have Dan and Charley’s support and we look forward to working together this year.”

Charley and Dan are also looking forward to what the future could hold for Cerebral Clothing, which they say will involve further development of work on mental health to go alongside their ranges of garments.

Their aims include organising events to raise money, building a supportive community promoting mental health awareness and becoming more of a lifestyle brand, which could involve partnerships and activities with gyms and setting up as a charity.

Samaritans are here to help and provide a free listening service to anyone who just needs to talk to someone. You can call 116 123 at any time or find out more via the Samaritans website.