Could a good suit bring out the best in a man?
Taylor Draper believes it can. The founder, chief creative officer and designer of INHERENT, a Colorado-based men’s fashion and lifestyle brand, developed his business based on the notion that dressing well is directly connected to mental wellness.
While the idea of opening a men’s clothing store had come to Draper before, it didn’t fully take shape right away. In 2017, he found himself in a mentally rough spot. Society’s “just be a man” attitude wasn’t serving him; he needed a different approach. He thought he should see a therapist. Or, at least, that’s what he assumed he needed at the time. He had no knowledge of what therapy was like and didn’t know what to expect.
“But I knew that if I’d wear a suit to a business meeting at the time, I’d crush the business meeting,” Draper says. “So, I basically showed up to therapy in a suit to give myself that self-confidence.”
During this time, he realized two things: “One, everyone should do therapy, and two, mental health is so important to men.”
Having been the owner of multiple businesses, Draper had always been professionally involved in design of some sort, albeit graphic design, brand identity, web design, etc. He had also always been into fashion, from looking at stitching patterns to learning about where items were milled. He says those same base principles of design, such as color theory and hierarchy, translate well to clothing.
INHERENT is more than a men’s clothing brand
At first, he wasn’t sure if he wanted INHERENT to be a passion project or something more. Then, he lost his childhood best friend to suicide, and the loss catapulted him to go all in.
Aiming to end the stigma around men’s mental health, he sold one business and left another to establish INHERENT, which is founded on the principle of advancing men’s mental wellness through distinct lifestyle products.
Launched in May 2020, during the early days of the pandemic, the odds should have been stacked against him. But what started as sharing an idea with the world quickly snowballed into a series of serendipitous events.
One month after INHERENT’s inception, Emmy-winning costume designer Janie Bryant, known for her work on Mad Men and Deadwood, approached Draper after learning about the brand’s mission. The two ended up collaborating on a line of clothes that included mix-and-match formal wear, shirts and all-season suits.
He also designed a collection for Denver Fashion Week, which then led to group shows at New York Fashion Week (NYFW). For his second collection, he was awarded Designer of the Year in Brooklyn. He was able to get certified by the Council of Fashion Designers in America (CFDA). Then, his first solo show, which happened this year, completely sold out.
INHERENT’s for-impact organization
In addition to the business, Draper also created Foundation by INHERENT, a 501(c)(3) for-impact organization, to gather and spark mental health conversations between men. The foundation complements the apparel side in that it aims to help men on the inside, while the suits help drive self-esteem on the outside.
Draper originally intended to partner with another nonprofit but couldn’t find any that existed that accomplished what he was looking for, so he started his own. He feels that the notion that men should be stoic and keep everything inside is why suicide rates are higher for men than women.
Funded through donations and by shoppers who choose to round up their purchases, the foundation uses a threefold approach through events, a grant program and a business-to-business initiative to build awareness around the issue of mental health.
Monthly huddles—guys’ nights—bring men together. There are non-alcoholic beer sponsors, and men can bring their cigars to the spot. Each evening revolves around a theme inspired by a widely recognized mental health calendar. Men break into smaller groups and open up about how the topics affect them. The main objective is to get everyone talking about their feelings and to offer practical resources. In the spirit of fellowship and generosity, all events are free and attendees don’t need to be INHERENT customers.
The INHERENT foundation
The foundation’s grant initiative gives men in the community four free sessions of whatever they need—body dysmorphia treatment, divorce counseling, life coaching, you name it. At events, men can complete a check-in and anonymously ask for what they need from its vetted mental health professional network. If the individual is unsure, the foundation will cover a session with a therapist who can either continue to see them or direct them where to go next. It helps connect the dots between someone feeling lost and moving in the right direction.
Additionally, the foundation has become certified in Mental Health First Aid and now holds the power to grant certifications to other businesses and individuals. Over the course of two days, the foundation is able to go to other companies to provide seminars and train people on how to recognize mental health red flags in themselves and others. It also educates individuals on how to get help and what questions to ask. Certificates are awarded to individuals upon completion.
The feedback from the community has been “overwhelmingly positive,” says Draper, who finds the idea that he’s been able to build this community and watch it grow both “humbling and amazing.” He’s also been surprised along the way by how fast people pick up on—and embrace—what INHERENT is trying to do: “We’ve not had one person say, ‘This is a bad idea.’ Every time somebody hears about the business, they say, ‘This is so needed,’ or, ‘This is amazing.’”
Since its inception (and at the time of publication), the foundation has helped connect 57 men with mental health services. “We have people reach out and say we’ve saved their lives,” Draper says—although he’s quick to point out it’s not him or his team doing the lifesaving work, rather the people at the resources they’ve connected them to.
The foundation in action
One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, believes the foundation’s monthly huddles saved her ex-boyfriend’s life. After he’d abruptly ended their relationship one night, seemingly out of the blue and in hysterics, she could tell by his voice that something deeper was happening. While she felt devastated, she begged him to attend a huddle.
After the first night, he sent her a text saying, “Thank you. I feel like that could be a good group of guys for me to get to know.” When he reached back out a few months later, she felt like he was a different man.
“The day he broke up with me, he later told me, was the day he was going to take his life,” she says. “I told Taylor [Draper] that they saved his life; my friend tells me I saved his life, but all I did was make the introduction to INHERENT. What they are doing for men’s mental health will change the world. I truly believe that what they are doing will help not only the men in this world but the women who love them. I could never repay what they did for us.”
Dopamine dressing for men
The mind-body connection between how you look on the outside and feeling better on the inside isn’t just some “woo-woo” vibe. Scientific studies published in PLOS ONE and Social Psychological and Personality Science—both peer-reviewed academic journals—have researched the various ways in which formal wear affects cognitive performance to how clothing colors affect our moods.
Draper has witnessed it himself countless times. When customers try on a suit in his shop for the first time, it’s like witnessing a physical transformation. “Their posture gets straighter, their chest rises, their chin goes up,” Draper says. “That’s just a really cool thing to see in person.”
It’s not just about looking good and feeling good, Draper says. It’s about doing good: “We dress you so that you feel good. And then, once you feel good, you can do good for yourself.”
An inherently bright future
While INHERENT suits and other clothing is accessible across the nation, a custom fitting at its Colorado Springs, Colorado, shop is a special experience. The fitting room area is distinguished with a velvet rope, you’re handed your favorite drink, and you choose the music that gets played on the sound system. But if you can’t make it to the shop in person, INHERENT also makes house calls through its traveling concierge service, which has the ability to go anywhere.
As for Draper, he’s trying to make each collection better than the last. “How can I make this better and how can I make this different? How can I make this something that people haven’t seen before?” he asks. “That’s creative heaven for me.”
Despite his NYFW experience and invitations to Paris and Milan fashion weeks, Draper is hitting the pause button on upcoming shows for the moment to focus on other aspects of the business. He’s working with a high-end department store in New York to launch something new and is looking forward to bringing on new leadership to help run the foundation. Otherwise, it’s full steam ahead.
This article originally appeared in the November/December issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo by ©Burke Atkerson/CourtesyTaylor Draper.
Emily O’Brien is a writer and editor based out of Raleigh, North Carolina.