About Relentless

Relentless is a documentary podcast about the pursuit of far-fetched ideas and unusual aspirations. In other words: tenacity. How do people set their sights on a hard-to-reach goal?  In what ways do they change course once they get started? What keeps them going? What is more satisfying, the pursuit or the result?

Season 2 (Trailer)

For its second season, Relentless takes an inside look at the earnest, but often quixotic, pursuit of sustainability in fashion. While the industry as a whole struggles to set common standards for sustainability, individual brands, many based in New York City, are setting goals and establishing best practices based on their own values. Using interviews with founders of fashion brands who are striving to do business ethically, the series explores the different forms that being a responsible brand can take and the challenges of implementation. Founders discuss their aspirations and the reality of putting them into practice. Listeners learn about the nuances of sustainability in fashion and what kinds of shopping decisions can make a difference for the planet and for workers.

The first five episodes take a behind-the-scenes look at the New York menswear brand Noah. These episodes establish the key considerations for assessing the “sustainability” of a fashion brand: guiding principles, sourcing materials, means of fabrication, production facilities, packaging, and responsibility for the full life-cycle of a product. The story features excerpts from multiple sit-down interviews with Noah’s  founders, Brendon Babenzien and Estelle Bailey-Babenzien; employees in operations, design, and sales; and customers and fans of the brand. 

The series then expands to tell stories about other brand-specific efforts in the apparel industry, including stylist Rachael Wang, designer Mara Hoffman, and Cynthia Power from Eileen Fisher. Each of these subsequent episodes provides listeners with a further understanding of the complexity of pursuing sustainability in fashion and helps listeners establish their own standards for making personal wardrobe choices with the planet and people in mind. 

Questions the series explores include: Does being a business by definition contradict the possibility of sustainability? If not, what does it take to achieve and why don’t more brands do it? What compromises are made in order to be sustainable? Do clothes that are made sustainably have to be expensive? What role do consumers play in motivating fashion brands to make these efforts? What do you do when your values threaten the success of your business? Or vice versa?

The podcast’s website provides factual information about the issues and the companies featured as well as links to resources for listeners who want to learn more.

Season 1 (Trailer)

The first season of Relentless explores extreme fandom by profiling devotees of the New York City skateboard and clothing brand, Supreme. Made on-site in New York City throughout the fall of 2017. The series was promoted by streetwear sites like Hypebeast, and features a combination of on-the-street interviews with fans in New York City, Los Angeles, and London, including rapper Rich the Kid, plus a sit-down conversation with creative consultant Curtains.

The series is an ongoing exploration of Supreme’s followers who engage in a weekly competitive process to secure a place in line at their stores week after week. These fans have a seemingly endless appetite for this brand’s merchandise...and its resale market. What is so special about this brand? How does it manage to inspire such interest and dedication? 

Many Supreme fans love this brand because it is just so popular; they love the hype. Others keep coming back because it reminds them of the past, a welcome sense of nostalgia. The demand for Supreme far exceeds the supply. If you are willing and able to pay extra, you can probably get just what you want -- from resellers. Depending on your perspective, resellers are either the heroes of this story, connecting customers to the things they want, or they are the villains, depriving customers of direct access to the merchandise. Whether friend or foe, are resellers fans? The series also expands outwards to spotlight the Lo Heads who are superfans of Ralph Lauren and an art installation by Barbara Kruger that responds to Supreme’s unsanctioned use of her artwork. 

Through an outsider’s perspective, the brand and its cult-like following is considered and experienced from various angles, raising questions about consumerism, our relationships with things, celebrity influence on taste, and the evolution of skate culture and fashion.

Format 

Episodes are generally 20-25 minutes in length and released weekly. The driving force behind these narrative stories is genuine curiosity. The tone is upbeat, intellectual, and occasionally whimsical. 

Team

The podcast is produced and reported by Maddy Russell-Shapiro. A graduate of Yale University and the Transom radio workshop, Maddy is based in New York City and San Francisco. She previously designed and managed programs to help teens and young adults advance their education and career goals. She chairs the board of Prison University Project, a college inside San Quentin State Prison in California.

Music for Relentless is produced by students at Building Beats, a DJ and music program that teaches entrepreneurship, leadership, and life skills to youth in New York City.

Narration recorded by Dan Navetta at Bryght Young Things

Season 2 editors are Eve Austin, Britta Conroy-Randall, and Sarah Holtz.

Cover artwork by Justine Braisted.

Audience & Access

Relentless is a general-interest podcast for an English-speaking audience. The podcast is available on most major podcast platforms, including SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, RadioPublic, and NPR One. Each episode is promoted through Instagram, @therelentlesspodcast and transcripts for each episode are available on the podcast’s website.