Apolis Activism, which is a small line, primarily graphic tees and knits, and available at boutiques like Los Angeles’ Scott Hill, Villains Vault in San Francisco and DressCodes in Decatur, is just the latest in the growing roster of what I call “Activist” brands, that make social activism (whether the cause is building sustainable economies in Third World countries or environmental conservation) part of its selling point. It’s not a new concept, but it seems that recently, it has really hit the big time. These new brands aim squarely for a young, affluent demographic that is more interested in designer names than in freeing Mumbai (although that may be a little late.) A recent ad campaign for Barney’s, for example, “Barney’s Green”, featured organic cotton pieces by Rogan Gregory’s second brand Loomstate. I think that brands like Helmet of the Will (designed by a Rogan alumnus,) and the Rogan/Bono collaborative brand Edun (“Nude” spelled backwards) are a huge improvement on the uncomfortably rough, poorly designed and manufactured organic tees that used to be sound at the same stores that sold Rasta hats and bongs. My Helmut of the Will hoodie is made of a very interesting doubled jersey with horizontal striations in the weave, well made, very comfortable, and one of my current favorite pieces.
It certainly makes better sense for people who know how to make good clothes decide that they want some of their profits go to charity, than for a bunch of people who are activists first and foremost and probably look down on people who make and buy designer clothing decide that if people have to buy clothes, they may as well do so with the smallest carbon footprint or whatever.
The trend is not confined to the boutique brands either. Converse has the “Converse Red” line, which, the Converse website tells us, contributes to the “Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,) and GAP, not to be outdone, has a “Red” line as well. I used to think that Bono was a huge wanker, but boy, you’ve put your rep on the line, and done good.