While the athleisure apparel industry continues to explode in popularity and a slew of new lifestyle brands seems to emerge every week, the experience of shopping for high-performing sportswear for men often leaves a lot to be desired. Enter: Future Proper, a new venture from long-time friends Even Dunlop and Adam Levite. Combining Dunlop’s chops in the merchandising, product, and retail industry with Levite’s renowned eye for design, the pair endeavored to create a retail platform that they liken to “SSENSE meets Mr. Porter meets KITH.” Ok, now you’re talking. Here’s everything you need to know about their sleek new e-commerce destination:
Tell us about the inspiration behind the name.
Even Dunlop: It was a collaborative and iterative process. Ultimately, we liked the forward-minded, positive qualities and endless opportunities associated with the future; everything you do now is for your future. Proper resonated with doing the right thing. Proper also has a sartorial quality—looking sharp. In combination, Future Proper simply felt right. The more we explored variants, the more we came back to Future Proper. It simply felt right… and it was available!
Adam Levite: We are trying to capture a feeling: optimism, hopefulness, positivity, modesty, confidence, chill. And most important, it’s active. That’s really important to us, to encourage people to be active in whatever way works for them. There is a bro-y aggressiveness in the men’s athleticwear space that doesn’t resonate with either of us. We are tired of men’s athletic brands that say, “Dig deeper! Work harder! Go for it!” We are tired of being yelled at.
What was the impetus to launch Future Proper? Do you feel that the experience of shopping for men’s activewear has always lacked excitement?
ED: The impetus was born out of our own experiences and frustrations surrounding seeking out great and unique active brands. With the emergence of new DTC brands in this space, it was not excitement that was necessarily missing; rather, it was the lack of curation. Bandier and Carbon38, on the women’s side, have been crushing this space for a few years. We felt that it was time for guys to have a similar retail outlet; albeit from a different voice.
AL: Excitement and choices. When you go to the big activewear brands’ sites, you have to wade through literally hundreds of different options of, for example, shorts, to find one or two that you think ‘Eh, that seems ok, I guess.’ We wanted a site where people are given a couple of amazing options that are built beautifully, look cool, and fit well—and, as a bonus, are manufactured more sustainably than the huge, wasteful brands.
It feels like a very elevated experience!
ED: Definitely. It’s all about brand curation and visual experience. Successful retailing requires highly differentiated merchandising, and our product offering is timely, diverse, and distinctive.
AL: We wanted to create a community built around the things that we and our friends were into. We’re trying to reflect our modern, hyphenated, hybrid existence. We exercise, but it’s one piece of a wide range of interconnected interests: health, training, music, art, design, thought, lifestyle. We want to focus on helping people establish a healthy training habit rather than outfitting the weekend warrior. Whether you spend every day training body weight in order to get ready for a triathlon or just because it makes you feel good, that’s awesome. Sport is so much more than who can work harder and who can kick more ass than the next guy. Even is more of a former athlete. I come from the action sports world—snowboarding, skateboarding—where athletics have a more zen approach. You have to practice, of course, but you also have to trust and believe in yourself in order to land a trick.
Did you take particular inspiration from the high end digital/physical retailers catering for women’s activewear?ED: We certainly explored many sites that resonated with our aesthetic, but ultimately the design language presented itself organically as we refined our identity. I’m sure women’s activewear sites were among the list, but we were not looking to simply replicate any one site or concept. It had to feel fresh and distinctive.
AL: For sure. There are some amazing, robust women’s retailers. And there are none for men.
What did you both do before launching Future Proper?
ED: My background is steeped in merchandising, product development, and brand building—all while on the wholesale side of the business. I have worked hand-in-hand with retailers my entire career, but this is the first time that I am sitting on the other side of the table. Knowing myself, I foresee tapping into my product development background and launching our own collection in the not-too-distant future.
AL: My background is half in design and branding, and the other half in directing music videos and commercials. My two claims to fame are [designing] the branding for Undefeated LA (and now worldwide) and the poster for the movie Boogie Nights.
How do you know each other and why did you want to go into business together? And how do you complement each other as founders?
ED: Adam and I have known each other for 20 years. Our eldest children were close friends and our friendship naturally grew over the years. We’re both creatives and have an affinity for apparel, the arts, music, and modern culture. We also both windsurf! When I first approached Adam, I knew that I wanted a business partner. Launching a business alone is lonely and extremely challenging, plus I knew that we both brought complimentary talents to the table. Ultimately, there was a great deal of mutual respect. Adam brings a super-solid background in graphic design, image making, and storytelling—crucial elements for building brand identity and delivering audience-capturing assets. He also has a great eye for fashion. On my side, I’ve lived and breathed the apparel business for over 25 years and have been fortunate to work alongside iconic brands in the process. I’ve also always had my hand in operations and executive leadership. So, despite now being in retail, much of the process simply feels intuitive.
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AL: We met when our first-born kids were six months old; we now each have three kids—all the exact same ages—and we’ve been friends ever since. We have always been close and always admired each other’s work. And when Even told me he wanted to start this business, it was such a great idea, and I knew Even would approach it from a place of confidence and substance. So, we had a coffee. We talked about the brands we both admired, like Patagonia, Saturdays, Undefeated, and Supreme; how they were built; and how we would like to build our own brand and brand experience similarly. Like those brands, we wanted to plant a flag in unique territory rather than doing what other people are doing—In our case, a hyphenated, curated approach to athletics and training.
Tell us about what brands you’re offering. What was the selection process like?
ED: Our primary selection process is through the lens of performance. This may be by design, fabrication, or end use. Passion is also important. We gravitate towards those brands that are passionate about what they do. In that same vein, we also strive to work with brand partners that are socially and environmentally conscious. These are quickly becoming non-negotiable elements in today’s fashion business, and ones that we wholeheartedly embrace.
Do you plan to add more brands? What’s the criteria?
ED: Yes! There is a huge selection of amazing brands that fit our profile. We plan to keep adding brands in a measured way, all the while ensuring that our curation does not overwhelm. We also aspire to build out product assortments and brands by end use. Right now, our focus is general training, with a penchant for running, but we will soon have broader assortments by sport and end use.
What’s on your own wishlist from the site’s offering right now, and why?
ED: There are so many pieces that it would be unfair to list them all. I can say, though, that I am really digging BrandBlack as a whole. They are a huge inspiration for me and our own brand development: performance activewear that compliments their unmistakably unique and stylish footwear. Like their footwear, we aim to develop activewear that is the exception to the expected.
What’s the ultimate goal for Future Proper?
ED: To be the go-to destination—physical and online—for men’s performance and fashion activewear. From there, the possibilities are endless.
AL: Small steps. First, we are continuing to create an amazing edit of some of the best, most sustainable, coolest brands that are out there. We also plan to design and make some of our own stuff that reflects our hybrid approach to athletics and training. And, finally, some retail locations would be a great way to continue to develop our ethos and continue to directly inspire people to continue a healthy active lifestyle.