Founder of Exhale Nawal El Masri Was Inspired by Mental Health to Create Her UAE Based Clothing Brand
Nawal El Masri, founder of clothing brand Exhale was inspired to create her company when she was at a dark time in her life. El Masri noticed that there was a very close link between the clothes we choose to wear and how we feel, so she decided to create a line of pieces that would comfort the body and encourage mindfulness.
Exhale offers comfortable clothing that encourages art and expression. Allowing the wearer to be fully themselves when they put on the pieces. Exhale uses only natural, sustainable materials with equally sustainable and holistic production. They believe in fair trade and clean, artistic designs that express a deep sense of meaning; physically, mentally and emotionally.
To mark World Mental Health Day we talk to the founder of Exhale Nawal El Masri, on what inspired her to create her brand and why it’s so important to talk about mental health.
What can you tell us about how the idea of Exhale came about?
The idea of exhale flourished during a low period in my life where I decided to use the pain I was feeling and turn it into something beneficial. One thing that we all have in is that we all feel pain and loss. It is something that is inevitable something that can inspire others through our honesty and transparency.
This is when I decided to question my job, what I enjoy doing, what I want to spend most of my time doing, how I can do it, where I can do it, how can I balance my life through it. Slowly I started exploring all these questions and the answers slowly started showing themselves.
I decided to use clothing as a tool of communication, to integrate art and story-telling in the clothing I produce, to inject meaning and purpose and above all to remind people to self-reflect and be mindful.
How important do you think what we wear is in terms of our mood or state of mind?
The clothes we wear have the power to bring out the best and worst in us. They can encourage confidence but also make us feel uncomfortable or self-conscious.
If your clothes don’t represent the true internal you, if they are uncomfortable, if the shoes you wear are a bit tight around the edges or the t-shirt is uncomfortable or the pants too tight. How do you expect yourself to flow? How do you expect your body to be itself when it’s not even comfortable? How can you ask the mind to not think of the irritated skin or the stomach that can barely take a deep breath, or the foot that aches?
What you choose to wear does affect your mood and state of mind if it’s not true to you.
Give yourself a breather, wear you, be you, represent you no matter what the trend says. Just be yourself.
How do you want people to feel when they wear your clothes?
Complimented, empowered, confident, included and above all to feel themselves – I want them to know that the clothing that is touching their skin is made with kindness, awareness and value towards them, nature and to all the workers we work with.
You have selected specific materials for your products, what can you tell us about the selection process and the materials you chose to use?
We choose a specific type of material that won’t irritate the skin. It is sustainable and organic. We ensure that all the materials we use are soft and breathable.
Why do you think it’s important to use natural products?
It’s important to remain natural as that is what our mind, body and soul understands to communicate with. Natural should be the standard of the world. It is healthier for the human body, the environment and everything that is alive around us.
How important is sustainability to you as a brand?
Sustainability is highly important to Exhale. We keep mindful and continue to educate ourselves on how to remain sustainable in an industry and world where this subjet is unfortunately not as mainstream as it should be.
Talking about mental health why do you think it’s important to raise awareness with something like World Mental Health Day?
Raising awareness on mental health shouldn’t stop and begin only on specific days, but it is important to begin somewhere so having these days and months unite the voices of the world while bringing to those who suffer from mental illness. It is also important to educate those who stigmatize it or don’t believe in it as such ignorance can harm a nation as it has already done so.
What do you tend to do when you’re feeling down or alone?
I allow the feeling to be and try to understand what has ignited it. I journal my way into my answers – some days there are no answers there are just feelings and for those days I just remember to exhale and know that tomorrow is another day to begin again.
What is the one thing you tell yourself every day to encourage positivity?
Alḥamdulillāh or Thank you God
Why do you think it’s important to talk about mental health?
Talking is a cure, it’s a form of education, it creates awareness. Talking has the ability to kill ignorance, kill our ego and our differences. It is highly important to talk about our state of mind, our brain and our state of awareness.
How do you think attitudes towards mental health are changing in the Middle East?
It is being spoken about and has recently received a lot of attention which is a beautiful step towards acceptance.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far with Exhale?
Finding the right soulful individuals to call family.
And your biggest achievement so far?
A beautiful exhale community of dreamers, creators and doers that have resonated with the brand and that exhale brought inspiration to their life
What would you still like to achieve?
More awareness, stories, collaborations and inspiration into people’s lives.
What is the motto that you live your life by?
Depend on God
What is a book you would recommend?
The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey. It’s the kind of book that anyone can open to any page and feel uplifted and inspired.