Sharing Italian positivity one T-shirt at a time
Michael Scarpellini and his wife Eiman Hamza have taken the Italian word “felicità” and, translating it into Happiness, have created a brand that not only stands for great clothes, but also shares a positive state of being with its employees, collaborators, customers and the founders themselves.
The couple started out in 2007 with a small collection of T-shirts. Thanks to commitment and talent, they soon grew from a local business into an exclusive label with global recognition. Now, they have big plans for their expanding brand. With the intent of moving to a different location in downtown LA and bringing their Milanese Happiness House – a concept store with a restaurant and little caffe – stateside, the two visionary designers will be spreading a little more positive Happiness in the U.S.A.
Happiness was originally the collaboration between an Italian family-owned factory and a fashion student from Los Angeles. How did this relationship start?
We started in 2007 when my wife, Eiman, and I were students at FIDM, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles … We were hearing a lot about the financial crisis in Italy , so we decided to take advantage of my family’s company to create something for ourselves. We started Happiness.
We began by making T-shirts since they were the easiest thing to produce. The difference between our line and other T-shirt labels was the positioning of our brand. From the very beginning we placed the brand in higher-end retailers, which was something none of the other brands had done before. Good price, good quality Made in Italy products and distribution in highly fashionable stores have made Happiness what it is today.
What’s the philosophy behind Happiness?
The most important thing is to create the Happiness family, a big family made up from different people of different races and different cultures, who work together on the same project and for the same goal.
From Milan to Los Angeles and vice-versa. How are the personalities of these two cities visible in your collection?
From Los Angeles we’ve taken more of the lifestyle – rock, punk, music, art, types of feelings generally associated with our brand – while from Milan we’ve got the quality, the fashion, the high society parties … When taken together these two cities give an extra boost to Happiness.
Are you a happy person?
I’m happy when the people around me are happy. One of the biggest concepts behind Happiness and the people that work for Happiness is family. Family is a state of being. There is family when everybody in a group is happy. It’s not all about the money, but more about creating the opportunities for young people to grow with us by creating different types of businesses. We’re trying to make everybody happy with our brand and doing this makes me really happy.
What do you think is a great look?
I think there are lots of trends, but in the end, there are no trends since everybody is free to do whatever he or she wants to do. As I said, we launched with T-shirts because they’re a market staple. People of all ages buy T-shirts, so they brought us all kinds of customers.
Then we did something more unconventional: we turned sweats, clothing normally associated with exercise, into a fashion item. So, I would say that personally my favorite look would probably be sweat-pants worn throughout the day: from morning to work to night. Sweats are our denim. We’ve created many different collections, from elegant Chanel-chic styles to the more hipster-casual looks, because a great look is something you feel confident in. Something you feel happy in.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Inspiration comes from people. Everyday we receive tons of email from amazing graphic designers from all over the world. I can easily say that Happiness is not designed just by the Happiness design-team, Happiness is designed by people. The truth is we are just blank papers that anyone can write or draw on.
I’ve heard that April 3rd is a big date. Tell me why!
April 3rd we are going to launch our Spring/Summer collection in our store on Melrose. The theme is going to be 100% Italian, so we are going to serve Bellinis as well as Italian food. We’d love to bring shopping back to the street, so we are using the Melrose location since it has the right mix between hipster society and the flavor of street culture.