With its glorious weather, Hollywood smiles, and flexible deadlines, Los Angeles can seem like a hub of unserious business—if you're not from the area. Having grown up in Southern California (Santa Barbara, to be specific), brothers Shea and Raan Parton—founders of L.A.-based label Apolis—give off an appropriately carefree vibe.
But don't be fooled: for more than 12 years, they've been working fervently to shift the idea that "travel" and "vacation" are the same thing. "There are a lot of 'travel' brands that are about this sense of wandering, which never sat very well with me," says Raan. Instead, Apolis zeroes in on smaller communities around the world, finding and commissioning local artisans to produce the goods they already make—but for a much larger audience.
Although Apolis was founded in 2004, the brothers refocused the brand after a trip to Nepal in 2006. While there, Raan and Shea met a local development group that purchased goods from Nepalese artisans and sold them throughout the rest of the country (and part of neighboring India) to create consistent employment. The brothers saw potential to do something similar with Apolis; they wanted to create clothes and jobs for people around the world simultaneously.
Over the past ten years, Shea and Raan have built a network of artisans in countries including Peru, Bangladesh, and Uganda, employing them to make goods for the brand. In October 2015, the brand commissioned a glassware company in Oaxaca, Mexico to create a limited run of jars, for which they were paid seven times the city's minimum wage. Apolis specializes in a unique kind of social-minded, international philanthropy—and it's a win for both sides. On one end, jobs are created in communities that can use the boost in production. On the other, consumers are able to purchase high-quality goods from unique, specialty manufacturers.
Apolis also makes clothes at a higher volume in more developed economies like Portugal, Japan, and Poland. A standout is the Transit Issue Cameraman Jacket, which features a water-resistant wool shell, removable nylon sleeves, and pockets perfectly sized for spare lenses and cords. It's not something you'd necessarily need if you're vacationing at a traditional resort, but it's ideal if you're a photojournalist working in an unpredictable environment, or even a photographer traveling in one. The same ethos is true of Apolis' range of jeans, T-shirts, and bags—they're designed for the traveler who needs clothes to support an active, passionate lifestyle, wherever that takes them.
The Parton brothers aren't stopping at manufacturing, either. They also want to shift the retail paradigm. Starting with their store in L.A.'s Arts District, Common Gallery. Employees go through hospitality training with the Four Seasons executive team, so shoppers can walk out of the store feeling genuinely accommodated. "We follow restaurant groups and hospitality a lot closer than we do clothing companies," says Shea. "In terms of service, the bar is pretty low in our industry." Whether it's shopping in L.A. or exploring somewhere unknown—at the end of the day, Apolis has one bottom line, says Raan: "Get out there."
For more, check out apolisglobal.com.