Since it was first published, this article has been edited.
Talking to the founders of Ap0cene — Ariel Arakas, Elissa Rumford and Sam Walker — is a crash course in fashion e-commerce and digital authentication processes, the challenges that were prominent in their minds when they incorporated in January 2022. “The designers that we are serving … get ripped off constantly,” Rumford explains. “What we are doing is creating [intellectual property] protection for them to fight against counterfeits.”
Ap0cene (ap0cene.com Arakas & Rumford (@ap0cene) is an ultra high-end fashion label based out of New York City. However, because they both graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, the pair are also bringing new fashion jobs to Richmond. After incorporating the business in New York, the trio decided to expand production facilities here and opened a warehouse facility in the city in August.
Thanks to Rumford’s proclivity for attracting high social media engagement with campy, fashion-forward TikTok posts, Ap0cene is sought after by high-profile celebrities including Olivia Rodrigo, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion and Miguel, and by stylists looking to pull pieces from their inventory.
On the surface, customers see a curated online designer platform selling items resembling the Jean Paul Gaultier pieces seen in the sci-fi film “The Fifth Element.” On the back end, Ap0cene seeks to help emerging sustainability-focused designers reach customers in the global digital luxury marketplace. The data they collect is used to aid designers in marketing strategies, logistics decisions, shipping internationally and customer service.
Ap0cene embeds microchips to ensure authenticity in high-fashion garments. “We build crypto protocols, especially in the NFT [nonfungible tokens, i.e., unique digital identifiers] space,” Walker says. “We originally saw this opportunity with the way people were collecting NFTs and that people were collecting luxury fashion. We use a blockchain-compatible authentication protocol, which uses the chips we place in the clothing. [technology] to authenticate these garments.”
Ap0cene’s executives have been traveling worldwide raising funds for their garment ID chips. Arakas believes that globetrotting is a great way to establish trust with their customers. The three have worked together for another fashion label and recognize that fashion is changing. They want their purchases to reflect all aspects of sustainability, including environmental, social, and economic. “Being able to authenticate those pieces and where they are coming from is really valuable these days,” Arakas says.
The brand’s name is drawn from “Anthropocene,” a word used to describe the current geologic time in which human activity is the dominant influence on the environment. The zero in the name stands for “0%,” a nod to fashion’s zero-waste movement, which seeks to minimize textile waste. Ap0cene, while not yet at that point, wants to be recognized for its commitment to sustainability as it expands the in-house design offering.