True Global Citizenship: Apolis
Written by: Anthony Hagan All Images courtesy of Apolis

It was great to catch up with the Brand Director/CEO of Apolis, Shea Parton (seen directly below) for an interview about the philosophy of the company and what makes it tick.  I was immediately struck by Shea’s (and Apolis’) deep sense of community and a rare humility that is actually quite contagious.  Shea and his brother Raan (Apolis Creative Director) founded apparel company Apolis in 2004 on the foundation that a thoughtful business can bring social impact in traditional and creative ways. Apolis has since become a juggernaut in the social and environmental impact space without sacrificing style, commerce or principles (business and ethics).  Apolis’ business model is a well thought out amalgamation of a strong conviction in the fact that we are all global citizens, a pure pursuit of all encompassing excellence and the relentless search for more ways to create tangible impact. For a brand that cares so much about our world, I was taken aback when Shea ended the interview with a very humble “thanks for caring”.  At that moment, the only thought in my mind was “what elixir is being served at Apolis and how can we bottle and sell this stuff to make everyone fully understand that we are all global citizens?”

“One major thing our dad taught us growing up is that over 90% of communication is non-verbal.  You are sending messages without even speaking and in many cases, it is important that you …”

For people living under a rock and don’t know anything about Apolis, please give a brief company/product description?

Apolis is a company that wants to connect people and instill in the masses a philosophy that business can bring about social change.  Apolis believes in equal access for all people and creating a world where all can share in the available fruits.  There is a travel-minded and inclusive spirit to everything we do.

Apolis talks about ‘opportunity rather than charity’ – can you expand on this a bit?

Apolis knows that from the ‘grower to the sewer’, there are enough resources in the world for all to partake and we have created a business where we view ourselves as global citizens that want to help teach our fellow citizens (in mostly underprivileged parts of the world) in a broad array of regions how to fish.  This fishing analogy might sound weird but we all know the common saying “teach a person how to fish and you feed them ……………”, well, some people in the world may be fishing but using the wrong bait, or their pond might not be big enough.  Apolis wants to make sure our fellow global citizens in all parts of the world are fishing with the right bait in the right ponds.    

Social impact is a big part of Apolis’ culture and philosophy, how does this fit with commerce and how does Apolis measure the actual impact the brand is making?

Apolis is a B Corp, meaning it is a for-profit company certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.  At Apolis we put a lot of importance on all our processes – supply chain, consumer, material sourcing and job creation.  For example, our very popular market tote bag is making a real (tangible) impact – every 100,000 units that get made keeps 21 Bangladeshi women employed for 1000 days.  This proves that business can be used for good at a micro level.

In addition, we don’t compromise with the design of our products and we always try to be conservative with both economic returns and social impact – it is important to be purposive with all we do because we strive for longevity.  We have learned a lot from Patagonia, a company that has been able to balance growth and doing good in the world for over 50 years.

The ‘global citizen’ theme is a powerful one; does Apolis plan to take this beyond apparel? 

‘Apolis’ is taken from the Greek word that means “citizen of no country.”  This mindset comes from our incredible parents stressing to us at a very early age that we are part of a global community that needs to be seen, explored and helped.  Our parents provided us with amazing opportunities to travel and realize that despite the different borders, currencies, languages, landscapes, etc., the similarities between inhabitants of this planet are mind-blowing.  The ‘global citizen’ tag just crystallizes this concept of oneness and equality to a deeper level.  

How does Apolis vet manufacturers and retailers to ensure like-minded philosophies?

Our products are made all over the world. We receive at least one artisan approach/request a day and out of 100 requests we might move forward with one or two – we are highly selective.  We depend on our vast on-the-ground networks and experienced team to vet and vouch for thecartisans and suppliers we use.  Our business is an extremely relational one so our demand for excellence travels quickly and is well known through our supply chain.

Regarding product design, how does Apolis keep up with or stay ahead of fashion trends?

We are members of the CFDA (The Council of Fashion Designers of America – a non-profit organization dedicated to helping American designers flourish in the global fashion realm) and the network this organization has afforded Apolis cannot be overstated.  It has been a real pleasure working and interacting with them.  Being part of a group of like minded individuals really keeps our creativity and aspirations moving in the right direction.

Also, do you (or will you eventually) have products for women?

We will definitely add women’s apparel to the Apolis mix when the time is right.  At the moment, women have been experiencing our goods through the market, tote, courier and garden bags.

What other brands out there does Apolis look up to or aspires to be like, and why?

As mentioned previously, it has to be Patagonia.  We had a neighbor growing up that was a lead on the organic sourcing team at Patagonia – his passion for the company was so profound that even at an early age we knew there was something special there.

One major thing our dad taught us growing up is that over 90% of communication is non-verbal.  You are sending messages without even speaking and in many cases, it is important that you are sending the right messages. Many men act like cold hard safes with diamonds locked inside and have the “you need to pry me open to find my gems” approach to life.  I don’t think this approach is effective – and these days with a little thought, you can present yourself with style without being a gaudy.  Apolis has strived to make clothes that allow men to have straightforward items and a color scheme that won’t get them discouraged from trying.  A blue, white and khaki color scheme always works – for example Apolis’ Quilted Blazer, Utility Chino and Washed Oxford make a very reliable ensemble.

Where can people get updates or purchase Apolis products?

Our website is a great place to find all things Apolis.

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