No doubt, the majority of the customers at Apolis are more interested in the soft weave of that pullover than the Peruvian factory in which it was woven, but for brothers Shea and Raan Parton, the Apolis co-founders, that identifying string of numbers is the entire point of their business. œWe’re really open source with everything we do, explains Raan. œIt’s a reflection of what we think is important. What, exactly, they think is important: Using their fashion company to pioneer a new model for corporate activism, what they call œadvocacy through industry. What that means in action: Where most fashion companies will manufacture clothes in a handful of factories (in all likelihood in China), Apolis instead partners with socially-conscious producers and artisans in underserved communities around the globe. So go ahead, look up that factory code. It might just belong to a cooperative of jute craftspeople in Bangladesh who use their profits to provide nutrition training and literacy classes to women, or a factory in India that empowers local weavers. œThere are other companies who try to help commercialize indigenous artisan skill sets, but Apolis has done it in a way that seems fashionable and relevant and timely and modern, says Dale Denkensohn, a fashion executive who mentored the brothers when he was the lead sportswear designer at Patagonia. œI’ve never seen it done quite so well commercially.
Growing up in Santa Barbara, Shea (31) and Raan (33) spent their childhoods traveling the world with their parents, who were passionate nonprofit supporters. œOur parents knew we were going to be Southern California monsters if we didn’t get to see the rest of the globe, laughs Shea. The ruse worked. Before they’d graduated college, the brothers were shipping Apolis’s first œimpact product a cashmere sweater created in conjunction with a Nepalese cooperative straight out of Shea’s dorm room to Bloomingdale’s.
From the get-go, the Apolis agenda was to locate artisans with interesting skill sets and then, instead of just importing these œindigenous crafts, partner up to design something together. Shea considers it a twist on the old proverb of teaching a man to fish: œWe noticed that there’s plenty of well trained fishermen in all these developing economies, but they often don’t have the right bait or a large enough pond. So we saw the opportunity to co-design products with local communities and cooperatives in order to bring them to a wider audience.
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