If you’ve perused Alternative’s Handpicked section lately, you’ve likely come across the classic, yet modern designs of our friends at Apolis. With a name that translates to “global citizen”, Apolis is a socially motivated lifestyle brand that empowers communities worldwide through their model of advocacy through industry. With strong held beliefs that friendships can transform communities and that the most valuable practice in creating lasting change is investing in people, Apolis strives to equip and empower global citizens through its products, projects and the stories and relationships that stem from them.
We took a short jaunt down from our Design Studio in Downtown LA to the Arts District to catch up with Apolis’ founders at their flagship retail space, Apolis: Common Gallery, and to learn more about the brand and their model of advocacy through industry.
Brothers Raan and Shea Parton founded Apolis in 2004 with a simple idea that business can create social change. Instilled with a love for travel and a global-minded, social consciousness at an early age, the Parton brothers sought out to enable equal access to global markets to artisans around the world. Explains Shea, “Most people have heard of the ‘teach a man to fish’ proverb, but what we realized during our travels is that there are plenty of well trained ‘fishermen’ in developing economies, but they often don’t have the right bait or a large enough pond.” The brothers saw this as an opportunity to collaborate with communities and cooperatives around the world to create co-designed products held to the highest quality standards and introduce them to a wider audience and a stronger market.
Apolis’ Bangladesh project, its most scaled to-date, is a shining example of how Apolis’ philosophies translate in practice. Started in 2010 after an introduction to Mohammad Ghayasuddin, General Manager of Saidpur Enterprises in rural Bangladesh, Apolis began production on their now iconic Market Bag. As a non-profit entity, Saidpur Enterprises was founded to help rebuild Saidpur’s local economy and create opportunity for its residents. Apolis’ Market Bags are handcrafted by a cooperative of female artisans employed by Saidpur, many of whom are the sole providers in their families. To date, Apolis has sold more 41,860 units of its Market Bag, allowing for the employment of 21 female artisans for 494 days. In turn, Saidpur Enterprises has experienced growth alongside this project, developing their own larger infrastructure by directly exporting their goods. Along with supporting their individual co-op members, the profits from Saidpur Enterprises’ business are also used to support local educational and social programs, creating positive ripple effects throughout the community.
“It’s ultimately been a huge experiment in trusting people and believing in the idea that business can improve people’s lives,” reflects Shea. “We’ve been blown away by what Mohammad has been able to do. It’s been inspiring working with him, and affirms our own commitment and determination to continue the work we do to maintain our half of the partnership.”
Apolis is a Certified B Corporation, a designation that speaks to the engrained philosophy of their business model as one designed for social impact. By voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability and performance, Certified B Corps differentiate themselves by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business. “Being a part of B Corp has really fine tuned a lot of our process and standards,” says Shea. “Though it’s just one bullet point to our larger story, we’re thankful and proud to be a part of a community of forward-thinking brands focused on positive social and environmental change.”
The Partons are quick to point out that Apolis is where it is today thanks in large part to a strong support network made up of family, friends and customers who have provided encouragement, served as examples and made introductions to like-minded individuals who have contributed to their learning along the way. “We’re thankful to be doing what we love…and that I’m still friends with my brother and business partner,” quips Shea.
With projects in six countries and local manufacturing partnerships in Los Angeles, Apolis represents a new paradigm in how global businesses can operate, offering a full range of well-designed, high-quality products to equip and empower a global citizenry. We are inspired and motivated by their stories and actions and look forward to hearing and seeing more from Apolis in the future.
Check out Apolis available now online and in-stores.
Written by Rachel Maniago
Photos by Brandon Harman