Holstee’s Manifesto for Change

A design company’s mission statement goes viral.

Photograph by Michael Radparvar

Do what you love. Do it often. Repeat. It’s not something you’d expect to hear from a for-profit company in its start-up days. But you also wouldn’t expect a company to go viral before its shelves were fully stocked.

That’s what happened to Mike and Dave Radparvar, who, along with co-founder Fabian Pfortmüller, created their sustainable design company, Holstee. Founded on a name that portmanteaus two aspects of their first product—a t-shirt with a pocket holster—Holstee didn’t become an overnight sensation. The 2008 recession prompted the brothers to become entrepreneurs. They quit their jobs and brainstormed their manifesto: How do we live our lives, and what’s most important?

Ever since The Washington Post dubbed Holstee “the new Just Do It in 2011, companies have been asking Holstee to help them craft their own manifestos, in the hopes of similar viral charm.

Here’s Mike talking to Mindful’s associate editor, Carsten Knox, about why he thinks the Holstee manifesto took off:

If you’re looking for a manifesto to go viral, we don’t have a recipe for that. If there are any rules, don’t have any expectations. Write it only for yourself. Maybe that’s why it happened. It was 2009, the shit was hitting the fan with the economy. People were reevaluating what was important to them, saying, I just got laid off of a job I didn’t really care about. So what do I really want to do? It’s the idea of really pursuing things you’re passionate about.

Dave once described the manifesto as a time capsule for the company: “A message to our future selves. We’ll know that we’re living a successful life if we’re still able to live by those values.” Mike adds that the manifesto is part of a sea change he’s starting to see towards a more mindful economy that’s interested in local wares, community-building, and products that aren’t just the cheapest and trendiest. Here’s Mike and Dave talking about the manifesto and building a mindful economy:

With an online shop that ships internationally, a staff of 11, and their newly-launched Holstee Print shop, Holstee’s strategy is to displace existing everyday products with a more sustainable alternative. One of their first products, a recycled wallet, is made from plastic bags from the streets of Delhi—Holstee partnered with an NGO that worked to improve wages and living conditions for local rag pickers.

And the brothers focus on another aspect of sustainable consumption, too: leaving spaces for not consuming. On Black Friday, Holstee shutters its online shop. Visitors to Holstee.com see a note encouraging them to block off time for family on that day. The brothers say they designed Holstee’s online check-out to preview items with the words “You chose this” overhead to encourage more conscious spending. A recent video project pairing the Holstee manifesto with shots of New York City cyclers garnered a million views on YouTube.

Next, Holstee is designing a campaign around a particular product that we know little about on the manufacturing and design side, yet use every day: cell phones.

“We’re going through a phase with our devices and our social media, connected to it and not each other,” Mike told Mindful. This new campaign aims to “essentially create a symbol that’s as recognizable as the international no-smoking symbol, which means that this is a space for human connection”—something professors could put up during their Ted Talks, or be posted in conference halls or cafés.

“Too many people are not being present in public,” Mike adds. And it all comes back to checking in with ourselves: Are we doing what we love? What’s most important?

To learn more about Holstee, you can get behind the scenes news from the Holstee Studio from their blog.

This web extra provides additional information related to an article titled, “Manifesto for Change,” which appeared in the June 2014 issue of Mindful magazine.