APOLIS’ Global Citizen
"Our hope is that Apolis will encourage individuals to see people as people — no matter where they are — and to be participants rather than spectators." - Raan Parton
A socially motivated lifestyle brand that empowers communities worldwide is a solid description of the brand known as Apolis. Apolis is a brand created by two brothers with a vision to disrupt the status quo for doing business. Brothers Raan and Shea Parton created Apolis with the goal of equipping global citizens with products that are travel-minded and well-designed with the idea of having less, but better quality products. Raan Parton leads the creative side of Apolis while his brother Shea Parton handles the business side. Together they keep Apolis as an example of how ‘advocacy through industry’ can be accomplished. We sat down with Raan and we learned a great detail about the Apolis brand and their vision for the global citizen.
MFP: Because your business model is not typical, what has been the biggest struggle in having the model of ‘advocacy through industry’? On the same token, what has been the biggest success because of it?
Raan: Our business model has been a litmus test of sorts for where we spend our energy and the kind of partnerships we want to pursue. From the beginning, that model has been limiting in a way because it is so specific. Apolis will only take on partnerships which make an impact in terms of scalable job creation, yet we’re also looking for products with a certain quality and aesthetic — so finding partnerships which line up with all of those stipulations is kind of like finding a needle in a haystack. But once we started working this way and got known for making products with community development in mind, more and more potential partners would reach out to us to work with them. When we first began, it was hard to convince people to even work with us, and now that we have some traction, we can’t keep up with the amount of proposals we get. So our goal now is to really focus on the projects that are beginning to successfully scale. The discipline involved in growing something like that is really hard, but it’s really rewarding to see come to fruition.
MFP: As a brand that empowers communities worldwide, what is something that other companies/businesses can learn from Apolis?
Raan: We’re really proud of our partnership with Saidpur Enterprises , a co-op in Bangladesh which makes the Apolis Market Bag. The co-op manager, Mohammad, is responsible for developing a factory model where the female artisans who make these bags get Fair Trade wages, profit dividends, and a retirement fund. A Fair Trade wage is more or less the gold standard for social compliance in developing communities, but it’s essentially just a global minimum wage and will never really break a poverty cycle. What’s exciting about the Saidpur model is that it goes above and beyond Fair Trade wages, and I think the factory’s success is really turning into a case study of how an entire community can be changed through responsible (keyword: responsible) free-market capitalism with the goal of using business for good.
MFP: How is Apolis, a brand about the global citizen, different from your typical brand/business?
Raan: I think Apolis is similar to many businesses and by no means do we think we have it all figured out. That being said, I do think that the idea of Global Citizenship can feel very radical within the garment and textile industry, which is an industry that generally does not highlight or celebrate where products are actually manufactured. But instead of having a product feel anonymous, we’re hoping to celebrate a product's origin and strive for equality — socially, economically, culturally, and occupationally. That’s something we always want to remember, because that’s why Apolis started in the first place. Our hope is that Apolis will encourage individuals to see people as people — no matter where they are — and to be participants rather than spectators.
MFP: We like to believe that the Apolis Market Bag has been the key product in the success of Apolis, why do you think this is the case? How has this market bag resonated with your customers?
Raan: I think the simplicity of the product and the way we’ve been able to regionally brand it for people, which is especially appealing in the era of Instagram, has given it momentum beyond our expectations. I also think the development story behind the product and what it represents helps people engage with our brand and want to tell other people about it.
MFP:Who is the Apolis customer?
Raan: Our customer is really undefined, to be honest. We started predominantly in menswear because it was what we were most comfortable designing. While menswear is still a big part of our business, some of the impact products — like the market bag — really have no limit in terms of who can use them, which has caused a shift in our audience. That’s really exciting for us, because it’s prompting us to be open to anything and anyone as long as we’re continuing to fulfill our mission of job creation where we can use design as a tool to unlock potential in communities around the globe.
MFP:Where do you see Apolis going in the next 5 years?
Raan: We really want to dig into our strengths and build a foundation that will last for the next five years, and hopefully on into the next 50 as well. We have no plans to sell the company, so we’re focusing on patiently making moves to grow on our own steam, in order to continue to do what we love doing. We want to use our voice to advocate for standards of ethics and responsibility within our industry, with the hope that in five years, our particular style of social enterprise will be more of a norm than an exception in the business world.
MFP: Apolis was co-founded by you and your brother, how important do you think this collaboration between brothers has been in the success of Apolis?
Raan: It’s been absolutely key. My brother and I are total opposites — I handle all the design and Shea runs the business side of things. So while we’re both involved in everything, our differing points of view provide us both with a sense of perspective. I think building something with a sense of originality and authenticity takes a long time, and the fact that we’re brothers has helped us in the sense that as family, we share the same long-term mindset, having spent our whole lives together.
MFP: From working alongside your brother, can you share some experiences that support the phrase “Family and Business do Mix!”?
Raan: Ha! Well, family is a whole new level of partnership. To be frank, it sometimes involves insane fights and disagreements — but for us it also means we can be brutally honest with each other in a way that I don’t think could happen in other partnerships. At the end of the day, we’re family and know that we’ll see each other across the table at family gatherings, so we can never get too sideways with each other. For us, there’s simply no erasing the reality that family is blood, so even in sharp disagreements, we know that we’re going to stick together. There’s a unique confidence in that, and I think that in some partnerships, there may be more of a temptation to second-guess the other person’s intentions. That’s far less of an issue for us, because while we disagree frequently, it’s generally over which route to take, rather than questioning each other’s intentions — and that makes a huge difference.
Photography by Adrian Martin for Men's Fashion Post