If you're in need of a new cosy jumper for winter, our 'Chats with Makers' feature this month will be perfect. Introducing Charlotte Robinson, the Founder of Minus Cloud Nine and brilliant mental health advocate.
Charlotte's story is truly inspirational. Turning depression and big life challenges into something positive, to help others and spread important messages surrounding mental health. Take a look at her written interview below and join us on Instagram live this week to hear more.
Thursday 18th November - Minus Cloud Nine x LMM Instagram Takeover and Live at 1pm.
What is Minus Cloud Nine?
Minus Cloud Nine is a community driven project. Our brand strives to ignite conversations around mental health worldwide, from the recognisable symbol of the cloud. Dialogue is encouraged in a supportive environment, free of any intimidation or judgement.
What made you start your business and when did you take the leap?
Aha! Where to even start. The idea of MCN was born during my final university degree when I was battling serious depression after watching one of my parents try and take their life in front of me, twice. One time in person, another via Facetime. As you can imagine, it was very traumatic and I had PTSD (which I didn’t realise I had until a while later). This all went on for around two years with lots of suicide attempts from the individual while I tried to care for them the best I could, along with juggling my final year of University (at the other end of the country), working three jobs, paying a mortgage, as well as rent in London.
I was in the final part of my degree and had to submit my final collection, which is where 'the original six' was born.
These 6 girls were my ‘final collection’ for my degree at University.
I came up with a concept of creating a brand which was based on opening conversations around mental health and having visuals such as the cloud that younger generations could use instead of such scary and stigmatised words such as ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’. This was 2015 which was very different to the current World we live in and I realised through talking to University teachers how stigmatised this whole subject was (they were even uncomfortable when I would explain what the cloud meant).
I submitted my degree and honestly never ever thought I would come back to this project, at that time in my life I was focusing on my own survival to be honest.
After a while I started screen printing my ‘girls’ on to t-shirts in my bedroom (very badly!!) and my friends started wearing them, posting on social media, and being very supportive. It took me a long time to start talking about the project properly, especially to strangers, but I started to see very quickly that people could relate to the cloud, and were willing to pay for my work (which took me a very long time to digest!!!). Thats when I moved into having things made sustainably and ethically (I don’t feel like I can advocate mental health knowing that the cotton wasn’t made in proper working conditions) and to be honest, the rest is history.
I was invited to give my first talk to a team of professionals at Kinetic London, centred around mental health, and to share ‘my story’ with them. Afterwards, they told me how much I had helped open up conversations, which was the first time I could see it all coming together. Then schools and other businesses followed suit (recently featured in the Netflix internal newsletter on this!).
So now, its seems like the plan is coming together, the clothes are just a factory to create a community around the cloud and the illustrations, and it's only just the start!
When have you been most proud of what you've achieved?
Definitely my first ever speaking event, it was in a school in South London for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019. I was so proud I got up and talked about the brand in front of a room full of people. Since then I have done talks with lots of schools and businesses such as Bloom & Wild, Kinetic London, Hattrick UK & Netflix.
Another huge achievement was being part of the Lets Do London Better campaign where my illustration got put up on a billboard in Westfield along with other amazing artists all hero'ing a theme for mental health.
Most recently, getting into Wolf & Badger online and their Coal Drops Yard store was a really surreal feeling.
How important is sustainability within your business?
As I am advocating for mental health, it is really important to me that all of the workers in my production line are looked after and paid equally with the correct working conditions. The items that I don't make myself are Fair Wear approved, which matters to me. Having things made ethically goes hand in hand with sustainability so from field to finish everything is done fairly, equally and respectfully, for the people involved and the planet.
What products do you sell and which is your favourite?
I get a real thrill when I sell prints, as I find it amazing that people could potentially want my illustrations up on their wall in their house relating to the cloud and hopefully bringing them comfort. I also love when I sell any of the bags, I make them from scratch from start to finish along with bucket hats, scrunchies etc, so that feels really rewarding to sell them. Lastly, I love to sell the design below. It is such a large print and I feel so proud that people are willing to wear this across their body!
What is the biggest challenge you've faced so far?
Definitely the pandemic. A huge part of my job at the time was managing events and naturally, there was no longer any events so it was very strange. To keep busy I started making scrubs for the NHS which turned into masks - I ended up selling 3000 masks through my business. This gave me belief in my capabilities so that I could focus 100% on my business and push my dreams for MCN.
Which digital platforms and programs have helped shape your business?
I am really terrible at technology - to be honest, I hate it! I am very ready for the day I can hand over all social media/website stuff to someone else.
Instagram is amazing and by far the platform I spend the most time on.
Pinterest is great for inspiration, especially if I have some off cut fabric I want to do something with, but I'm not 100% sure on what direction to go down.
If you could give other creatives one piece of advice about starting a business, what would it be?
Do not wait for perfection! Just start with what you've got, share your ideas, talk to people and believe in your biz, it will grow and hard work will pay off (eventually!).
Do you have any exciting projects or plans coming up?
I have LOTS but one of the things I can share is I am currently developing an active wear line which is made 100% from fishing nets from the sea and plastic bottle waste! It has been a long process, especially perfecting the fabric and having everything made sustainably but I am so excited to share it.
What is the process for customers? How can readers contact you?
Discount code: CHATSWITHLMM for 20% off.
If you've enjoyed this interview, or have any further questions for Charlotte, please get in touch. Join us on Thursday 18th November at 1pm to find out more about Minus Cloud Nine via Instagram Live.