Launched in 2020, the retail destination Future Proper aims to question what it means to be active as it breaks down stereotypes pinning victory or defeat to a successful workout. Co-founder and CEO Even Dunlop, along with co-founder and creative director Adam Levite, found that most sites selling performance gear and athleisure steered their inventory and marketing toward athletes. For Future Proper, they envisioned a place of discovery, community and inspiration, enhanced with articles and playlists in addition to their hand-selected clothing and lifestyle products.
“My background’s been in fashion for 20-some odd years, on the wholesale side of things, where I was leading creative teams in both design and merchandizing,” Dunlop tells us. “I’ve always been a product guy. I love gear.” Dunlop approached Levite—whose creative vision contributed to design and branding efforts at Burton, Nike and other blue chip companies, as well as music videos for Beck, Interpol and more—with the idea. They’d already known each other for 20 years.
“I brought it to him because I wanted to have a partner to share this with, the ups and the downs of a start-up,” Dunlops says. “We built the team and went from there. From our perspective, this is what needed to get done in this space. Nobody was doing this for guys in the performance gear aspect of their lives. It was born from our frustration from constantly looking for a unique piece that everyone wasn’t already wearing.”
“We’re really trying to define a new paradigm for athletics where everything isn’t about the testosterone marketing language,” Levite says. “Our message is for people who see exercise as one piece of taking care of their life. This reflects what’s going on right now: people are taking care of themselves. It’s become ingrained in their lives. It’s one facet. We have seen the community and we want to be at the forefront of tweaking that aggressive vibe of athletic-wear companies and gym sensibilities.”
This is reflected in their mission statement to become an accessible, diverse and responsible retail destination and community. The latter is of great importance because it allows them to encourage people to take care of themselves on many levels.
“To take care of the their mental health along with physical health,” Levite says of the stories section of their site. “It’s to expose them to art and design. Music is aesthetics. Music can motivate you to exercise but it can expose you to stories. For us all, it’s all integrated.”
As for how they’re finding brands to sell, Future Proper is digital first. “There aren’t shows to go to, or conventions anymore,” Dunlop says. “Instagram is a great way to find smaller brands. It’s either that or scouring one brand to the next. Oftentimes these brands have friends or peers in the industry. Everything comes together. We are a large community of smaller brands. It’s about bringing them all under one umbrella.”
“We’re not following a calendar or cadence based on industry-set standards,” Levite says, of the fact that they’re frequently adding new items. “And we’re not going to mark-down cadence. We are celebrating who these brands are and bringing them to the forefront. We want to make sure the brand fits a level of quality and aesthetic standard, and whether they align with social responsibility or environmental responsibility. Not all brands check all boxes, but this model is important to us.”
“It’s a work in progress,” Dunlop says. “We are just launching. Where we are today is not where we see ourselves in a year, two years or three years from now.” He adds that retail space will be a pillar of the brand. “I think physical spaces help promote community. You can meet people on the ground, where they are. You can let people touch and feel things. Building community centers on the grid, that’s important to us.”
Collaboration is the way of the world today
Beyond the retail component, they also hope to develop their own product. “We still see a void for a certain aesthetic in the performance market, and we are actively looking to find that. We will probably start with capsule collections and go from there—with both collaborative and in-house products. Collaboration is the way of the world today,” Dunlop says. “I can think of several brands where we’d like to add our touch, but I also see circumstances where we want to take the reins and produce something ourselves.”
Images courtesy of the Future Proper