Hope Is My Homeboy: How a Fashion Brand Was Launched to Address Mental Health

Rutu King-Hazel and her late brother Whero used to make clothes together – pulling all night long to whip the dress into shape, with King-Hazel serving as the mannequin.

Whero was a talented conductor – he made ball gowns for clients in Wellington, and got into the world of wearable arts.

But all that talent was tragically lost 10 years ago when Whoro committed suicide at the age of 21.

“He was the kindest and most selfless person I knew,” said King-Hazel. You remember his big heart, how he was always the life and soul of the party.

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King-Hazel (Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāi Tahu, Te Atiawa, Tūhoe) also lost her father when she was ten years old.

The question that gripped her in the wake of these losses was “Why?” , which King Hazel explored in her YouTube video. loss of lover.

“I’ve learned that it’s only natural to play that question over and over in your head,” she said.

“We are committed to finding answers, especially when painful things happen to us, and to be honest, there is no simple answer to this…I have learned to accept unresolved answers in my heart.”

In the wake of Whoro’s death, King-Hazel and Whānau felt called to action.

“As a creative family, we’d just sit there looking at all his clothes and gowns, and we’d be thinking, ‘Well, we’re not talented. “We can’t sew and make all these things,” King-Hazel recalls.

“We thought, how do we honor his life and spread the message of hope?”

Michaela Stanbridge Brin, Laura Phipps, Roto King-Hazel, and Lara Totti Model Hope is my home ethnicity.

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Michaela Stanbridge Brin, Laura Phipps, Roto King-Hazel, and Lara Totti Model Hope is my home ethnicity.

Wannau settled on creating a clothing brand, Hope is my Homeboy, in 2012, to spread this message.

King-Hazel said the clothes and costumes “brought my brother purpose and joy, so I felt it was right to do something with that element associated with it.”

The project was a success – Mike King wore the sweaters all over New Zealand to promote mental health on tour, but grief took hold of the family, who needed some time to work through their loss.

“We’ve shut it down a little bit over the past few years just to recover, process, and recover,” King-Hazel said.

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“I went through a phase where I needed to recover and deal with grief… It’s a beautiful thing once you’re healed or in a good place to get through.”

Now, she says, she is in a better place and in a better position to participate, help, and support others struggling with their mental health.

This month, King-Hazel is Re-launch the clothing collection To raise money for mental health and suicide prevention, with all proceeds going to Mike King’s I hope which helps pay counseling fees for young people who cannot afford it.

Hoodies and off-the-shelf track pants are purchased, but Nelson-based King-Hazel heat presses, designs, sizing and production itself, with support from Te Rau Ora’s Maori Community Suicide Prevention Trust.

It has also been given a helping hand by companies that have offered either promotions, discounts or free services such as Courier NZ, Ambitious IT, Branding NZ, Oxygen IT, Lumiere NZ and Afterpay.

Through her brand, she hopes to “remind people to slow down, be there, and be there,” by checking in on each other, calling a friend, calling a family member and asking “How are you?” , And how are you?” Are you really?’

“Just listening, not necessarily coming up with solutions or any kind of stuff like that. It’s just about being there.”

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