By Shea & Raan Parton
Photos by Michael J. Spear, Atish Saha, Ray Spears, Enki Tovuuch, Andy Barron, Enki Tovuuch, AJ Ragasa, Lawton Cook
2017 is over, and as we take a look back, my brother Raan and I — along with the entire Apolis team — want to thank you for your support over the last 12 months. This was our biggest year to date, and one in which we learned a lot. As we did last year, we’ve distilled this year's big takeaways into three central questions we want to continually ask ourselves in order to learn and improve in 2018.
How can we work smarter, instead of simply working harder?
We’ve really sought to embrace this idea over the last 12 months (particularly because Raan and I both have newborn children to take care of!). A big element in this is having a team that we really trust, which enables us to focus our attention on other aspects of the business. We’ve often said that one of the keys to patiently building a brand with purpose is to be content with your lifestyle and daily routine. That’s a major reason why I (Shea) recently moved my family to Oregon, working remotely and regularly commuting to Los Angeles. This has allowed me to concentrate on where I can be most effective and double-down on what will help Apolis move forward. It also helps us to support and empower our team, allowing them to utilize their strengths. This is part of our ongoing goal to continually grow, both from our successes as well as our mistakes.
What’s the goal of the Apolis Market Bag?
Over the summer, I visited Bangladesh and had the privilege of meeting the female artisans who make our market bags. Over and over, these women kept asking me for one primary thing: more bag orders. After hearing this recurring request for further work, I’ve begun to feel a new burden of responsibility for the purpose and mission of our business. The mothers who make these bags weren’t asking for aid or financial assistance; they were simply seeking further opportunities to work hard and provide for their families. This connects back to the simple reason we started Apolis in the first place: to use business for good by connecting artisans to a global marketplace, which in turn benefits local communities and breaks cycles of poverty. It’s a relatively simple notion, but one with tremendous potential, as we’ve had the pleasure of seeing firsthand.
The Market Bag has proven to be our biggest product, far exceeding our hopes and expectations, and we want to find new ways to leverage this item’s popularity into more work and job benefits for the women who craft this bag. We want to get this product out in front of everyone who might possibly be interested in owning it — because a larger audience doesn’t simply benefit Apolis, it benefits the community of Saidpur, Bangladesh, where the bags are made. Forbes recently highlighted how these bags are a part of breaking a poverty cycle, as the Saidpur factory is a model which has the potential to revolutionize the garment and textile industry in Bangladesh.
Why are we closing our New York store on January 1st, 2018?
While this Apolis’ largest year of growth yet, we came to a place where we realized closing Apolis: Community Centre in New York was a sad, but logical, choice. Within the fashion industry, there’s the prevalent idea of a “loss leader” — the concept of taking a financial hit on an unprofitable store in order to familiarize people with your brand. But we realized this approach was counterintuitive to our goal of using business for good. We’re still passionate about the importance and continual relevance of brick and mortar retail stores, and we're taking in the lessons we learned from the NY store in order to make our next Apolis store stronger and more thoughtful. We’re also excited to further strengthen our commitment to our Los Angeles store, seeking to elevate guests’ experiences and serve a purpose within the local community, as seen in events like our ongoing speaking series.
The Apolis brand was started over a decade ago, and was built around the idea of serving both local and global communities. Simply put, that’s what we want to continue doing in 2018. Ultimately, 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 other individuals who want to make a beneficial impact on the world.
As we head into 2018, these are the things we’re learning and thinking about. As we do so, we’re genuinely grateful for people like YOU, who have chosen to support Apolis and, by extension, the goal of using business to improve people’s lives. We look forward to seeing what the next 12 months hold.
Happy new year!