Apolis makes smart, durable menswear and maintains utter transparency about its supply chain, achievements for which it is recognized by both style and business organizations. You may not know the brand, but you should.
We got on the horn with cofounders/brothers Raan and Shea Parton to talk about the mission of Apolis, collaborating with Warby Parker and the benefit of growing up next to a Patagonia visionary.
Shea Parton: It’s a metaphor for our business and it’s our name. Global citizen is the translation of Apolis, which in Greek phonetics breaks down as a- meaning without, and –polis meaning country or nation. So, a citizen of no country, or a global citizen. That summarizes our business model: We co-design products with communities and craftspeople all over the world. Our idea is holistic in that the same way that you want to know where your food comes from, we feel we should be transparent and proud about our process of making clothes.
Raan Parton: The ethical part, for us, we don’t want to beat people over the head with it, but we were fortunate to grow up in Santa Barbara next to the former head of production for Patagonia and had an incredible front-row seat as he drove Patagonia to be the ethical company it is. In the outdoor world, there’s a huge focus on doing the least amount of harm as a company and putting your money where your mouth is. Patagonia is really focused on the environment, and we’re focused on taking a social stance. We work with smaller, indigenous supply chains in Bangladesh and Portugal. Some of the factories we work with in Portugal used to be Patagonia factories, actually. We work in Peru, in Poland. All those countries are represented in what’s on the floor in Nordstrom. We’re B Corp certified, which for ethical businesses is like what LEED certification is for energy-efficient architecture. It’s an objective rating, and we’re really proud of it. The first California B Corp–certified clothing business was Patagonia and then we were the next. We’ve been able to maintain that status, and I think we’re the only B Corp- and CFDA-recognized brand right now. So B Corp validates our ethics and CFDA validates our style, is how I think about it.
RP: Certainly. His name is Dale Denkensohn, and he basically headed up sportswear design at Patagonia and then was really influential in their shift into organic cotton. Now he runs a sustainable basics line called ECOnscious. He’s an unsung hero for organic cotton. Patagonia’s influence made it mainstream, and he’s the person who put his career on the line to make that happen. We learned a ton from him.
Who designs all your clothes?
RP: I do all the design; Shea makes sure we do good business and ship on time. We have opposite skills. I have no interest in details of business and he has no interest in design. I have zero formal training and have just always been obsessed with how things are produced. We started with T-shirts 10 years ago, cut-and-sew garments in Los Angeles, and then started working with supply chains around the world. As I meet new people around the world and learn their skills, I design for what they’re best at.
RP: The sweatpants, for sure. And our chinos, an everyday canvas chino. It’s an essential wardrobe-builder for a guy who needs something to wear year-round for every situation.
SP: We started a friendship with the guys from Warby Parker early on, and they approached us about working together. Our wine tote with Warby Parker is exclusive to Nordstrom, and comes back to this idea of co-designing. It’s made in Bangladesh in a super rural area, five hours north of Dhaka.
Are your alpaca sweatpants made in Peru?
RP: They are. We work with a mill in Peru that herds and shears the alpacas. It’s an interesting material, alpaca fur. It’s hypoallergenic, a sustainable fiber because the animals aren’t killed to harvest it, and while there is some complexity with the fiber since it can be coarser than cashmere, we work hard with our suppliers on their boiling techniques to soften it. And we work with a small factory in Peru. A lot of our other products are produced in Poland, milled in Japan, developed here in Los Angeles and in Zurich. Our factory in Poland is tiny and family-run. Vietnam and China are massive. Our facilities are small and we know all the people working there.