By Shea & Raan Parton
Photos by Zach Smith, Neph Trejo, Ray Spears, Studio Xaquixe, Jcrew, Linda Rae Sivrican, Andy Barron, Zach Glassman, Mohammad Ghayasuddin
Looking back at 2016, my brother Raan and I, as well the whole Apolis team, feel humbled and grateful for all the support we have received in 2016. As you’re reading this, we want to thank you, an Apolis supporter, for helping make 2016 our best year to date.
Apolis is a multifaceted business focused on global brick-and-mortar retail, our online store, and advocacy impact, and 2016 saw some new developments in Apolis’ strategy and impact. On the retail side, we were excited to open our second flagship location, Apolis: Community Centre, in New York's legendary SoHo neighborhood. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to this new location, and we’re excited to discover more ways to engage with our community.
One thing we’re particularly passionate about is continuing the community gathering tradition of our Los Angeles location at our New York store. At these gatherings, we’ve learned how to get published, discovered new and amazing ways to make coffee, listened to a blind piano prodigy, and discovered the impact of innovation and creativity on community.
This year also saw the launch of our Studio Direct pricing model. We believe in fewer, better products, and with our new pricing structure and distribution philosophy, we want to accelerate our goals of building a stronger brand for years to come. Overall, we learned a lot in 2016, and we’ve arrived at three central questions we want to continually ask ourselves in order to learn and improve in 2017:
What about our market bag seems to resonate with people?
First off, fashion model Gisele Bündchen has definitely been helpful in getting the bag in front of a lot of people. But one of the underestimated reasons for the success of this item (and similar products out there) is that it’s customizable. In today’s world, you can get the exact same Michael Kors product at the local mall as at any city you travel to. This globalized uniformity, while convenient, can end up making shopping options feel sterile, because everything’s pretty much the same from region to region. While all of us want well-designed items at reasonable prices, most people also want something extra, something with unique personal value. While people would buy our region-specific market bags when they came across them at specific locations, we always had a hard time selling the market bag online. Then we realized that something people would see as worth an online purchase would be something personalized just for them. It took us a year to develop, but we're pleased to now offer the ability to customize an Apolis market bag or T-shirt and ship within 2 weeks. Early in 2016 we promised to make every city available online and we are happy to say that is now possible.
How do we ensure that Apolis stays focused on people, rather than on itself?
The era of brands preying off of people’s insecurities is over. It’s become increasingly clear that people are looking for brands that are willing to listen, brands that aren’t full of themselves. People want products that serve a greater purpose, products which actually contribute positively to the world. If Apolis ever becomes merely a way to make money, it would be time to close our doors. Rather, the core of Apolis’ philosophy is seeking to serve both our customers and our manufacturing partners (be they in LA or Bangladesh). So we want to constantly consider ways we can improve – by making fewer and better products in 2017, by seeking to provide great online and in-store experiences for our guests, by seeking out mutually beneficial partnerships with artisans locally and globally, and by engendering a work environment that our employees enjoy coming to everyday. We definitely don’t have all the answers and want to continually grow, because we hold tightly to the principle that being responsible with a little leads to being trusted with more.
How does brick and mortar retail serve a purpose?
With the easy accessibility of online shopping, a physical store has to do more than simply provide a product to customers. That’s part of why we want to constantly challenge ourselves to make sure that Apolis stores serve a local purpose that is practical and relevant, a purpose beyond merely selling a product. Our community speaking series events are an example of something which utilizes our retail space in a way that simply can’t be duplicated online. These events aren’t a cynical way to just get people in the store to buy stuff (though if they do buy stuff, we aren’t complaining). Part of our motivation for these events is that we simply love to nerd out and learn from people that inspire us. And our deeper hope is that at these events, the audience is able take something they hear and use it to positively impact their community, whether in small or big way. Watch NY flagship Speaking Series Event (2m 30s).
The Apolis brand was built over 10 years ago on the idea of serving both local and global communities, and that’s what we want to continue doing. Our dream is to build regionally relevant stores across the globe – places which provide people with products they need from a brand they can relate to, and which also provide opportunities to connect with likeminded people who want to make a beneficial impact on the world.
These are just a few of the things we’ve been thinking about as we head into to 2017, things which we’ve learned thanks to customers like you – customers who believe in the concept of using business to improve people’s lives. Thank you, sincerely, for supporting Apolis. We are excited that we get to continue to partner with you as we head into the future.
Happy new year.