Many of us turn to creativity as an outlet for self-expression and to dispel with emotions that would otherwise only bring us down. For many, creativity is a lifeline, an understanding that fights through the darkness. Creativity is constant and can be turned to at any given moment.
Creativity is slowly being recognised as an important part of therapy. Painting, drawing, writing, photography and other forms of creative expression gives us an opportunity to express things that cannot be verbalised.
Thomas Gergich has a background in finance and business, but he has felt the creative itch for as long as he could remember. It is only within the last 18 months that he has turned to creativity as a way to really express himself.
About 2-3 years ago Thomas hit his low with a bout of depression. Seeking traditional help from a psychologist, he noticed the benefits of talking things through. Turning to creativity and drawing upon his personal experiences he created the clothing brand, Mentally Sound Designs.
‘The idea behind it is, most of the time we associate mental health issues with dark, grey, it’s a negative thing to talk about. From my personal experience, I sought help from a psychologist and that was an incredibly positive experience.’ Thomas said.
‘The message I want to get out there, with these bright images, it’s not something we have to be negative about. We can be happy and bright about it. It should be commended and celebrated when somebody seeks help.’
As the slogan says, Mentally Sound Designs is wearable artwork. Essentially what Thomas has done is turn people into walking canvases with a positive message to get across, to champion a cause that he believes in, wholeheartedly.
‘T-shirts/clothing are mobile, it is a great conversation starter. I want people to be walking billboards about de-stigmatising mental health issues and creating a greater awareness of depression, anxiety and other associated illnesses,’ Thomas said.
Mentally Sound Designs started 18 months ago and officially launched in February of this year. Over the space of a year, Thomas painted six canvases and from that, ended up with four designs for his first summer line of t-shirts.
‘It was all stuff that depicted key moments in my journey from depression to mentally sound. For the first line, it was merely a real expression of the way I was feeling. It was very much documenting what I was going through,’ Thomas said.
Thomas had no idea about t-shirt design, it was a constant learning experience while at the same time an emotional one. With experience comes knowledge and with the upcoming winter line, this knowledge has certainly come in handy.
‘For the first line, I self-expressed my ideas on a canvas and thought that was really cool. I would then take a picture of it and I remember thinking, how the heck am I going to get this onto a t-shirt,’ Thomas said.
‘From there I found the help of a graphic designer who drew up the picture on Adobe Illustrator and from there it was sent to a t-shirt printer. We chatted about what colour t-shirt would look good with what image.’
Thomas realised that to make that process faster and a lot easier was to incorporate Adobe Illustrator into his creative process, rather than rely on someone else. So he booked himself into a course and started practicing.
‘I think for a long time, I was a bit naïve about how fantastic these Adobe programs are. Your ability to muck around with colour at a click of a mouse, is just brilliant. It’s so great to show your ideas to the t-shirt printers just at a click of a button,’ Thomas said.
Mentally Sound Designs has launched the new winter line this month, right in time some might say. With a more simple creative process, Thomas has drawn his designs straight onto Adobe Illustrator. It is also the first time that they will have collaborations with other artists.
Thomas spent some time living in London and travelling across Europe. It was there he came across the work of a UK based street artist named Bill Thorpe. He also came across Nico Toncé, another street artist based in Toulouse in France.
‘I really liked their work and it was very true to what my concept was, bright colours, really bold, it was very much wearable artwork. I thought we could take it from being street art to putting it on a t-shirt. It was also a good opportunity for the artists to expand their brand into Australia,’ Thomas said.
‘The first line of shirts that we did was pretty much painted canvases on t-shirts. The paintings are brilliant but they don’t always appeal to a broader audience. They can be too bright for a lot of people.’
‘With this new line, it is a little more scaled back, it still stays true to the concept of bright colours but the images on them are a bit smaller, not as in your face and I think that is going to engage a lot more people.’
‘The winter line is going to include a jumper that Bill will be designing. We will also be doing a beanie and a couple of new t-shirts as well. I think Australia is the only place you can do a winter line and bring out new t-shirts.’
Many creatives know, things don’t always go according to plan. You make mistakes and that is okay. You don’t give up, you keep going, make those changes, learn from your errors. Don’t being disheartened, just keep going and who knows you might find you have created something that you least expected.
Thomas creates because it is a good outlet, emotionally for him. With a 9-6 job, he longed for a creative outlet and working in a professional services industry in finance, it just wasn’t scratching his creative bone.
‘Creativity is something inborn with people, whether you are a writer, an artist, a musician, you have this longing to do something. I had to take it upon myself to do something to fill that longing,’ Thomas said.
‘I remember starting off in the early stages of Mentally Sound Designs, speaking to graphic designers, web designers, screen printers and I found myself surrounded by really like-minded people, it was satisfying. It sounds very cliché, it really gave me a sense of belonging.’
The intention behind Mentally Sound Designs is not to shove the idea of positive mental health down people’s throats. Thomas has approached it in a very subtle way, allowing people to come to it when they are ready, because it is an extremely delicate issue for some people.
‘I don’t ever want to be something where people are forced to engage with it. It needs to be done at each individuals speed,’ Thomas said.
‘I just want to take away that negativity around mental health issues. Change the perception of mental health issues in Australia. We need to get people engaged with mental health professionals and we need to remove the stigma around that.’
‘I would love to see people wearing the shirts with a sense of pride. We need to learn about how we can take that first step to try and encourage our friends to seek help. I want people who wear my shirts to champion that cause.’
Thomas is currently working on collaborating with The Black Dog Institute and R U OK. He wants to avoid having one off donations. They are still in talks as to how they are going to do this.
‘It is still very early days, we are trying to collaborate and have something that is mutually beneficial to both parties and are still in discussion,’ Thomas said.
Mentally Sound Designs has a very busy year. With a winter line recently launched, Thomas will be spending a considerable amount of time promoting the brand and getting it out there. He also wants to lock down some ongoing relationships with these organisations to help the brand on a more consistent basis.
‘At the moment, this project is funded by myself and I have a fantastic network of friends and family and my girlfriend, they have been really supportive,’ Thomas said.
‘Over the next couple of years, I would love to see it stocked in stores. See Mentally Sound Design enter mainstream street wear fashion. To see a brand that champions a great positive cause and it is in the mainstream, that would be brilliant.’
Thomas is committed to his brand and stands behind his concept, without taking into consideration any monetary gain that might arise as a result. He, like many creative, stands by what he creates and the message he wants to get across.
‘I am committed to getting the conversation started. I want to keep putting out line after line of t-shirts until one day stockists pick it up. That is the level that I am committed to getting Mentally Sound Designs,’ Thomas said.
If you want to find out more about Mentally Sound Designs and buy you and your friends a shirt visit the website www.mentallysound.com.au or alternatively you can go to their Facebook and Instagram which has links to the website.
You will also find Mentally Sound Designs at Glebe and Bondi markets and working on more local stuff in Manly. You can find details about where they will next be through social media. Say hello, get behind the cause and help get the conversation started.
‘I don’t think I would ever feel comfortable designing something that I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing myself,’ Thomas said.
‘Not only is it something that other people have been really great about wearing, it is also something that I find fits my sense of style, which is great.’