Polite Worldwide is only two years old, and yet, when its founders Christian and Tavia Azzinaro casually list the people who have worn the label, it includes all of our favorite performers (plus the best-dressed F-1 driver gracing the track ).
To give you a taste, these are just some of the names that have sported their colorful designs: Drake, Rihanna, Bad Bunny, Justin Bieber, Kid Cudi, Giveon, Lewis Hamilton, Harry Styles, Post Malone, J Balvin… and it doesn’t stop there.
For a label breaking into fashion, having one of these names in the early stages is an impressive feat, but having them all is virtually unheard of. And it’s certainly not something that happened by luck.
Before founding Polite, both founders worked closely with Kanye West. Christian assisted with creative and production for his label’s Pastels and YEEZY, while Tavia worked more on the business side for YEEZY, roles left vacant when Polite started. Alongside their time at Ye, they have a long background in fashion, with Christian even helping to create the merchandise for Virgil Abloh’s DJ collective Been Trill.
“Joint experiences in design, fashion and business helped us to land where we wanted to be on the market with our own identity,” explain Christian and Tavia Azzinaro.
By the time it came time for them to create their own brand, they had spent enough time in the industry to know what they wanted to bring to it – and so Polite was born.
This is far from groping in the dark to see what would happen if they made some cool designs, but their ability to translate a decidedly laid-back Californian aesthetic into highly desirable products certainly helped.
The brand first started out by creating colorful jewelry featuring beads and multicolored gemstones that were handcrafted in their LA studio. As more men started experimenting with jewelry, it was these playful designs that led the likes of Big Sean and Justin Bieber to meet them and have bespoke pieces made.
Combining luxury, sustainability and whimsical designs, the couple have created a rare recipe in fine jewelry that has proven to be a hit. With the addition of biodegradable sunglasses and a ready-to-wear line to its roster, the label has continued to use the same recipe in everything it does.
“The step into the clothing industry was part of our plan,” explain the founders. “Our jewelry and clothing complement each other because when paired together they create an original style that combines relaxed luxury with the more playful incorporation of art through our graphics and vibrant colors.”
For fans of euphoriathis includes the oversized t-shirt worn by Hunter Schafer (aka Jules Vaughn) in Season 2.
Featuring a mountain landscape with a sunset and the word ‘Utopia’ written across the top, Christian draws the illustration directly onto the fabric of the long sleeve shirt, making each one unique and limited by nature.
Graphics like these have become a key element of the ready-to-wear offering and they have all been drawn by Christian, although some have been digitized and added to the clothing using the brand’s unique printing and dying processes, using non-toxic and vegetable dyes.
This is not a traditional process, but it is by design. “It’s a special feeling knowing that you can be a part of something with so much detail and originality, rather than an item that has been mass-produced,” say Christian and Tavia.
And it is a way of working that supports the commitment to sustainable business. Every part of the production process is considered to release products with the lowest possible carbon footprint, from not following the seasonal fashion calendar to making all garments from hemp.
“It has definitely been a challenge to achieve that goal and work to push boundaries within a very traditional supply chain that isn’t yet built to match the approach we’ve taken to really look at what it is means sustainable, environmentally friendly, and as conscious as possible,” say the founders.
Starting a new brand from scratch is already a challenge, and doing it in an environmentally responsible way only adds more complexity.
We’ve written about the sustainability issue of streetwear before, with non-stop hype-driven virgin drops being a key premise for many of the industry’s most desirable brands. Polite’s colorful range of graphic clothing and whimsical jewelery offers a viable alternative – albeit admittedly at a slightly higher price point for most.
“We’re excited about the potential to disrupt and overcome challenges to find alternatives that do much more to support than destroy the environment,” says the couple behind the brand, as they hope more of the industry will follow in their footsteps .
It’s an outdated cliché that sustainable brands only create boring basics, and the LA duo are proof of that. “Our brand has a very playful energy. You can have fun while being kind, considerate and taking extra steps to be ethical in production,” say the founders. “We design in a way that complements the product being made with that integrity.”
Although the couple is still in their early stages, they are busy making their plans to expand on reality. In our conversation, they mention a potential homeware line, major collaborations in the pipeline, and a program designed to help provide services to the broader design community.
Regardless of which direction it ventures next, rest assured that Polite will not dilute its mission. As Christian and Tavia say, “Politeness in itself is a mood, an attitude that we want to protect and preserve. It’s about well-behaved behavior and what it actually means to be polite, to have positive energy and to have a lifestyle that’s uplifted.”