In November 2021, Irish urban clothing brand, The Human Collective, burst onto the scene proudly wearing a message of equality on its sleeve. Speaking with Oisin Kenny, disability activist and Head of Community, Paddy Smyth, details what makes inclusive fashion.
New Irish urban clothing brand The Human Collective interweaves their commitment for social causes with loungewear fashion. Their equal sign (=) logo reflects a powerful mission statement to make people feel comfortable ‘wearing what they believe’. As Head of Community Paddy Smyth shares, “It brings home that message of equality for everybody. [...] I’m a big believer in ‘If you can see it, you can be it’, especially for someone who is disabled and in a minority group.”
The Human Collective revealed their new Head of Community in a brilliantly energetic short video where Smyth modelled jumpers and hats. It perfectly captures the brand’s signature cosy and fun feel, which can be felt throughout their social media pages. Reflecting back on the filming process, he said, “I love to entertain. I love being in front of the camera, that’s where I feel at home. So to do that with a message I feel very passionate about, it was amazing.”
Smyth has spoken openly across numerous platforms about his life as a gay man with cerebral palsy in order to promote inclusivity and awareness. While presenting the RTE TV series, The Fitting Room, he celebrated different body shapes, encouraging people to feel comfortable expressing themselves through fashion. Along those lines, the influencer also addressed struggling with his image on the television reality show The Circle (which he won) where he confessed, “I love my life, and I love what I’m about, and I like breaking barriers, but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel shit about it sometimes, or just sometimes wish things were different.”
In his new role as Head of Community, Smyth builds on his journey as both a trailblazing disability activist and a social influencer. Speaking on his new role, he said, “I love the ethos of the brand, I love what the brand represents. I also love that for every sale that we do, we give money to three charities. [...] It really aligns with my values and what I’m trying to create on social media. From TV shows I’ve done in the past like The Circle to First Dates, it just added to that.
I could add value to the brand, and they could help me in spreading my message.”
As Smyth noted while speaking about his excitement for this new role, The Human Collective have partnered with Sports Against Racism Ireland (SARI), LGBT Ireland, and the Irish Youth Foundation. The brand donates €3 for every sweatshirt sale, supporting these crucial causes as they stand against inequalities in Ireland.
Founder of the Human Collective, Conor Buckley, previously stated, “We have created a range of high quality and sustainable clothing in a brand that espouses respect for all human life. [...] We aim to make our customers feel great in three different ways: feel great when they see the clothes; feel great when they wear them and feel great for buying it as they will be donating to three different charities.”
Working towards this goal of sustainable, inclusive, and comfortable clothing, The Human Collective have brought together a powerhouse team representing diverse perspectives. Smyth outlines how this work environment strengthens the brand, “For me, that is a good team because that’s where you create the best ideas. I’m really enjoying it.
And I’m loving the structure of it as well because I haven’t had a structure like that in a while.”
Although The Human Collective are only newly established, the brand has already garnered an enormous amount of support from numerous communities across Ireland. People are rallying behind a brand with an important social message, celebrating fashion that so visibly and proudly advocates for inclusivity and equality.
Regarding people’s reaction to The Human Collective, Smyth said, “It’s been brilliant. People are really getting behind the message and our mission of trying to change the social narrative of not just ticking that box. We are listening to our feedback, we are creating a community.”
Over on The Human Collective Instagram, the brand further promotes this idea of community by sharing that they do this “to act as a subtle unifying symbol for racial, LGBT, gender, and opportunity equality.” With their wide range of inclusive clothing options such as gender neutral styles and diverse sizes, they continuously find creative ways to put their mission statement into action.
The clothing lines are ethically and sustainably produced, with sweatshirts made from certified organic and recycled materials. They are also Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) certified, ensuring fair work conditions for workers, and vegan certified.
When speaking about partnering with the urban clothing brand, CEO of LGBT Ireland, Paula Fagan, noted, “We’re delighted to partner with Human Collective on this fantastic project promoting equality through innovative and accessible initiatives.”
While The Human Collective launched with a clear and strong foundation, they still demonstrate a willingness to grow alongside the communities they are advocating for. This promises an exciting year ahead for both the brand and their audience as they continue developing new ways of promoting inclusivity across their 2022 collections.
Behind the scenes, the team, as demonstrated by Smyth and Buckley, empower this brand with a crucial awareness about a diverse range of social causes. Alongside promoting their clothing range on social media, they also actively uplift numerous community voices, such as sponsoring the Black and Irish Award for Best Influencer, celebrating Human Rights Day, and commemorating Rosa Parks Day.
Before their official launch, The Human Collective and Sports Against Racism Ireland (SARI) organised an antidiscrimination workshop for students from the Pleasant Street Youth Reach Centre Dublin. In October 2021, young people took part in phenomenal guest talks from eight-time All Ireland winning GAA player, Philly McMahon and Ireland Women’s Rugby 7s and XVs player, Sene Naoupu.
During the anti-discrimation workshop, McMahon declared, “Education, sport, social work, all of those things had been heightened and it was only because of the standards I had set for myself. [...] A half-time talk is when something significant in your life changes the standards of how you live. It could be mental health issues, it could be a break up, it could be a bereavement, it could be an addiction. But they basically ignite something inside you.
And then at half-time you go in and assess what you’ve done, what was good and what was bad. Now what do I need to do going out to this second half to have a really good game?”
SARI CEO, Perry Odgen, further stated, “The base of SARI is really about creating opportunities for young people. [...] There is only one race, the human race.”
The Human Collective through their work with various charitable organisations exemplifies the importance in collaborative action. It showcases how people form connections to their communities in numerous amazing ways, such as clothing and sports.
In producing leisure wear with a cause, The Human Collective puts their belief into action. Living up to their brand name, they are bringing people together with clothing that embodies inclusivity and equality.