MINT Magazine
Stanford Fashion & Culture
  M: MINT is featuring your spring/summer ’17 collection “Remote Reaches,” how did you come up with the inspiration for this line?    SA:  It was one of our co-founders. He was looking at satellite imagery and was really struck by the idea that you can look up any place on earth through Google satellite images. We started talking about that, and how connected we are, and this ability to plug into and access these once remote areas of the world. We drew the inspirational color palette—the light beiges, the light greens, the light greys—from desertscapes and glaciers. We pulled images from satellite imagery and superimposed them to create these crazy textile patterns from these massive, zoomed out images of the earth. Thematically, we wanted to capture that space and that size and that vastness, and also the idea of the purposeful journey. We ended up driving out to the desert in Nevada, and to the Nevada hills salt flats just outside of Salt Lake City, and doing a photoshoot out there. That became the collection, and it seemed to make sense with the lighter color tones of spring. It stood in contrast to our fall line, which was dark with a lot of basic colors—black, white, copper—and more industrial.

House of Future

Photographed by Ryan Jae

Modeled by Colby Williams, Yusef Ferhani, Hamzeh Daoud, Chineye Ogbonnah

Welcome to the Future

Interview with House of Future CEO Stuart Ahlum

The freshest kicks are being produced by the up-and-coming footwear label House of Future. Guided by a minimalist aesthetic, they produce recognizable sneaker silhouettes with updated materials such as micro-leather, micro-suede, and tyvek (a synthetic yarn), all of which are ethically sourced, sustainably produced, engineered to perform. MINT chatted with company co-founder Stuart Ahlum to peer into the Future.

  M: MINT is featuring your spring/summer ’17 collection “Remote Reaches,” how did you come up with the inspiration for this line?    SA:  It was one of our co-founders. He was looking at satellite imagery and was really struck by the idea that you can look up any place on earth through Google satellite images. We started talking about that, and how connected we are, and this ability to plug into and access these once remote areas of the world. We drew the inspirational color palette—the light beiges, the light greens, the light greys—from desertscapes and glaciers. We pulled images from satellite imagery and superimposed them to create these crazy textile patterns from these massive, zoomed out images of the earth. Thematically, we wanted to capture that space and that size and that vastness, and also the idea of the purposeful journey. We ended up driving out to the desert in Nevada, and to the Nevada hills salt flats just outside of Salt Lake City, and doing a photoshoot out there. That became the collection, and it seemed to make sense with the lighter color tones of spring. It stood in contrast to our fall line, which was dark with a lot of basic colors—black, white, copper—and more industrial.

M: MINT is featuring your spring/summer ’17 collection “Remote Reaches,” how did you come up with the inspiration for this line?

SA: It was one of our co-founders. He was looking at satellite imagery and was really struck by the idea that you can look up any place on earth through Google satellite images. We started talking about that, and how connected we are, and this ability to plug into and access these once remote areas of the world. We drew the inspirational color palette—the light beiges, the light greens, the light greys—from desertscapes and glaciers. We pulled images from satellite imagery and superimposed them to create these crazy textile patterns from these massive, zoomed out images of the earth. Thematically, we wanted to capture that space and that size and that vastness, and also the idea of the purposeful journey. We ended up driving out to the desert in Nevada, and to the Nevada hills salt flats just outside of Salt Lake City, and doing a photoshoot out there. That became the collection, and it seemed to make sense with the lighter color tones of spring. It stood in contrast to our fall line, which was dark with a lot of basic colors—black, white, copper—and more industrial.

  M: What was your inspiration for founding House of Future?    SA:  Ultimately, we looked at the footwear space. We looked at our own wardrobe, and [found] what we were wearing was increasingly more sneakers, and more leather sneakers. But the sneakers were like a dichotomy in my wardrobe, where it was high-end leather sneakers that I never really wanted to wear out because they would get ruined, and then the low-end, mass-market stuff like Chuck Taylors, Stan Smith Originals, and things like that. We wanted something that sat in the middle. We began looking at what was out on the market and wanted it to be designed at this high-end so it would feel premium—and [for customers] to have this luxury experience when you get it—but still be attainable. I felt like it was ridiculous that price and quality, luxury feel should be mutually exclusive…That’s how it got started: a hole in our wardrobe wasn’t on the market, and we realized we could deliver something better.

M: What was your inspiration for founding House of Future?

SA: Ultimately, we looked at the footwear space. We looked at our own wardrobe, and [found] what we were wearing was increasingly more sneakers, and more leather sneakers. But the sneakers were like a dichotomy in my wardrobe, where it was high-end leather sneakers that I never really wanted to wear out because they would get ruined, and then the low-end, mass-market stuff like Chuck Taylors, Stan Smith Originals, and things like that. We wanted something that sat in the middle. We began looking at what was out on the market and wanted it to be designed at this high-end so it would feel premium—and [for customers] to have this luxury experience when you get it—but still be attainable. I felt like it was ridiculous that price and quality, luxury feel should be mutually exclusive…That’s how it got started: a hole in our wardrobe wasn’t on the market, and we realized we could deliver something better.

  M: Significance of the label’s name?    SA:   The idea is that this is a look forward in footwear. We also wanted to pull from this concept of the design house. It’s not that the future of footwear has to be space age.  I think it has more to do with circling back around and questioning some of the conventions of the industry and the use of leathers and non-sustainable textiles. Always forward-looking but with the idea of pulling luxury from a design house, and having design be something that sits at the forefront too.

M: Significance of the label’s name?

SA:  The idea is that this is a look forward in footwear. We also wanted to pull from this concept of the design house. It’s not that the future of footwear has to be space age.  I think it has more to do with circling back around and questioning some of the conventions of the industry and the use of leathers and non-sustainable textiles. Always forward-looking but with the idea of pulling luxury from a design house, and having design be something that sits at the forefront too.

  M: How did you set out to make House of Future distinct from other sneaker brands?    SA:  We took a survey of what was out there before we started.  Also, it was what our strengths were. None of us were technical designers. As creative directors, we curate and we have pretty good taste for what we lean on. We essentially took the best of what was out there and boiled it down to what the silhouette is now, a high-top and a low-top, the point of differentiation. It wasn’t overly planned. It was an amalgamation of things we cared about and things we prioritized and were interested in: the sustainability, the modern textiles, the minimalism. We began to infuse that with our line. It wasn’t cooked in a laboratory. It was a lot of hours spent talking with one another and spit balling to see what was out there, and seeing higher-end brands do some really cool stuff and taking some of that inspiration and running with it.

M: How did you set out to make House of Future distinct from other sneaker brands?

SA: We took a survey of what was out there before we started.  Also, it was what our strengths were. None of us were technical designers. As creative directors, we curate and we have pretty good taste for what we lean on. We essentially took the best of what was out there and boiled it down to what the silhouette is now, a high-top and a low-top, the point of differentiation. It wasn’t overly planned. It was an amalgamation of things we cared about and things we prioritized and were interested in: the sustainability, the modern textiles, the minimalism. We began to infuse that with our line. It wasn’t cooked in a laboratory. It was a lot of hours spent talking with one another and spit balling to see what was out there, and seeing higher-end brands do some really cool stuff and taking some of that inspiration and running with it.

  M: Lots of brands create items without acknowledging the life of the product after use. What was the impetus for sustainable fashion and using non-traditional materials?    SA:  It started as a thought experiment that two of my co-founders did with another footwear project. They used wonky textiles, more industrial textiles in the shoes, just because they could. Then, we parlayed that information and realized that there was more that we can do. We’ve incorporated some of that, but really wanted to take that a step further and make it less of this quirky thing and have it be something that was more directly applicable, easier to use, and easier to relate to.  We also saw a bunch of cool things that other brands were doing. Stella McCartney obviously at the high-end of that with responsibility and sustainable fabrics. Adidas has done some really cool stuff with Parley, using recycled sea plastics. Just seeing those happen really resonated, especially coming off the heels of the fast-fashion bubble, where people bought things on the cheap for the season and just threw it away. We wanted to do stuff with sustainability and, liking fashion and liking retail, but also realizing I need to be accountable for the things we were producing.

M: Lots of brands create items without acknowledging the life of the product after use. What was the impetus for sustainable fashion and using non-traditional materials?

SA: It started as a thought experiment that two of my co-founders did with another footwear project. They used wonky textiles, more industrial textiles in the shoes, just because they could. Then, we parlayed that information and realized that there was more that we can do. We’ve incorporated some of that, but really wanted to take that a step further and make it less of this quirky thing and have it be something that was more directly applicable, easier to use, and easier to relate to.

We also saw a bunch of cool things that other brands were doing. Stella McCartney obviously at the high-end of that with responsibility and sustainable fabrics. Adidas has done some really cool stuff with Parley, using recycled sea plastics. Just seeing those happen really resonated, especially coming off the heels of the fast-fashion bubble, where people bought things on the cheap for the season and just threw it away. We wanted to do stuff with sustainability and, liking fashion and liking retail, but also realizing I need to be accountable for the things we were producing.

  M: Who is House of Future’s main audience?    SA:  Our target demographic is 18 to 35. At the risk of sounding cliché, it is a millennial demographic, by definition. But, it’s people that are more urbanites and in-the-know suburbanites. People that wear sneakers on a daily basis. They typically have job roles that allow them to wear sneakers to the office, and [therefore] are more able to transitions from work to after hours to going out on the weekends…So, less the heritage route, more modern.      M: How long has it taken to get House of Future off the ground? And what was the biggest challenge?    SA:  We really started throwing our weight behind it maybe a year and a half ago. We started to work with factories and get samples made. We gauged with different sales channels and different retailers. The biggest [challenge] for us has been to fulfill that promise of quality and luxury experience while maintaining the price point, and being able to find the right partners. Because this isn’t a high-end luxury brand, it’s not as if we have the force of an atelier behind us to guide or manufacture this handmade in Italy. We had to work hard to put the right production partners and sales force in place to understand the brand and to facilitate the right introductions. It’s one of those things in which you have this playbook up in your head and how you imagine it’s going to be quickly executed, but it does take time. The hardest thing has been to be patient with what you envisioned for both the collection and the brand itself to materialize, both in the creative way and from the business point-of-view, and watch the business mature.

M: Who is House of Future’s main audience?

SA: Our target demographic is 18 to 35. At the risk of sounding cliché, it is a millennial demographic, by definition. But, it’s people that are more urbanites and in-the-know suburbanites. People that wear sneakers on a daily basis. They typically have job roles that allow them to wear sneakers to the office, and [therefore] are more able to transitions from work to after hours to going out on the weekends…So, less the heritage route, more modern.

 

M: How long has it taken to get House of Future off the ground? And what was the biggest challenge?

SA: We really started throwing our weight behind it maybe a year and a half ago. We started to work with factories and get samples made. We gauged with different sales channels and different retailers. The biggest [challenge] for us has been to fulfill that promise of quality and luxury experience while maintaining the price point, and being able to find the right partners. Because this isn’t a high-end luxury brand, it’s not as if we have the force of an atelier behind us to guide or manufacture this handmade in Italy. We had to work hard to put the right production partners and sales force in place to understand the brand and to facilitate the right introductions. It’s one of those things in which you have this playbook up in your head and how you imagine it’s going to be quickly executed, but it does take time. The hardest thing has been to be patient with what you envisioned for both the collection and the brand itself to materialize, both in the creative way and from the business point-of-view, and watch the business mature.

  M: Where are you looking to take House of Future in the future?     SA:  In terms of product, we’re looking to diversify the silhouettes that we have. We’re coming out with women’s SS18, which is exciting because right now it’s just men’s sizes. We’re also interested in looking beyond just sneakers and beginning to incorporate other types of footwear. There’s discussion with potential diversification in outerwear and accessories.  In terms of our brand, we’re really looking to marry these concepts of performance and sustainability and trying to find the best ways to thread that yield. This isn’t activism. It’s not like TOMS one-for-one. It’s just trying to approach business in a responsible way and really live up to that promise of the way we manufacture and the way we source material fabrics, even down to our packaging and the people we are partnering with.

M: Where are you looking to take House of Future in the future? 

SA: In terms of product, we’re looking to diversify the silhouettes that we have. We’re coming out with women’s SS18, which is exciting because right now it’s just men’s sizes. We’re also interested in looking beyond just sneakers and beginning to incorporate other types of footwear. There’s discussion with potential diversification in outerwear and accessories.

In terms of our brand, we’re really looking to marry these concepts of performance and sustainability and trying to find the best ways to thread that yield. This isn’t activism. It’s not like TOMS one-for-one. It’s just trying to approach business in a responsible way and really live up to that promise of the way we manufacture and the way we source material fabrics, even down to our packaging and the people we are partnering with.

  M: We’re thrilled you reached out to us; why should Stanford look out for House of Future?    SA:  For the longest time, we were an LA brand, so the proximity to Stanford was great. I also spent a lot of time in San Francisco. The biggest thing for us was that we wanted to reach the university demographic and knew that there was an interested, educated, thoughtful group of college students that were out there and interested in fashion…I think that sustainability and the idea of modern, performance driven textiles will resonate with the Stanford community.

M: We’re thrilled you reached out to us; why should Stanford look out for House of Future?

SA: For the longest time, we were an LA brand, so the proximity to Stanford was great. I also spent a lot of time in San Francisco. The biggest thing for us was that we wanted to reach the university demographic and knew that there was an interested, educated, thoughtful group of college students that were out there and interested in fashion…I think that sustainability and the idea of modern, performance driven textiles will resonate with the Stanford community.