If you’re looking for the latest in high fashion sneakers but you’re not willing to shell out a few hundred bucks on a pair of Common Projects (or $600 on the gorgeous John Geiger 001), House of Future might be just the brand you’re looking for. Created by Placentia native Shaun Nath and co-founder Stuart Ahlum, House of Future is putting their own little spin on sneaker silhouettes you already know and love.
“The essence of the brand is that we create minimal and upscale sneakers using modern textiles,” Nath says. “They’re very easy to keep clean and take care of. In that modern sneaker look, everyone really struggles to keep their shoes clean — especially the white ones — so we focus there. We’re not pioneering any new silhouettes, we’re just changing what kind of materials they’re made with.”
To further reiterate their commitment to conceptual fashion as it applies to the sneaker world, House of Future drops special collections and themes each season. Last fall, it was an industrial urban theme full of colorways that would be more at home in a big city. Recently, the brand did a collaboration with Hong Kong’s Tattoo Temple for a limited run of Asian tattoo-themed shoes, and now they’ve moved on to “Remote Reaches,” which puts the focus more on the beauty of nature and naturally occurring imagery and colors.
“Aside from the black and white models that we’ll have with every season, we’ve got a light blue that represents water or ice, a tan for dirt and sand, and a light gray that looks like stone,” Nath says. “We went out to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to shoot the video for it, and it really gave us this great sense of space. We do something like that each season that inspires the collection to keep it conceptual and thoughtful, but at the end of the day the shoes are still something you can buy without the concept.”
But not too long ago, Nath was just a recent college graduate who moved to France to work for Quiksilver. After all, growing up in OC and going to college in San Diego, he’d spent most of his life on either a surfboard or a skateboard, so the action sports industry was an easy fit.
When both France and action sports took a bit of a dive during the recession of the late 2000s, Nath packed up his bags and moved to Shanghai for 6 years before finally returning to California. Over the last handful of years, Nath began noticing more and more upscale sneakers both as a consumer and a business consultant for other retail brands. Eventually, that brought the business-minded Nath together with the creative Ahlum to found House of Future last year.
“I see it all as a pendulum,” Nath says of the upscale sneaker market’s recent boom. “People went really casual for the first decade of the 2000s, and then I think there was a bit of a backlash. Once everyone was comfortable and casual, people started wanting to look a little nice. It’s given rise to this upscale casual look with a lot of these minimalist brands with a little higher price point and higher fashion look. I think everyone’s living such hectic lives that the minimalist fashion kind of frees up your mind a little bit. Our lives aren’t nearly as simple as our parents’ lives were, so we want simplicity and quality in everything from fashion to movies and music.”
Of course, the biggest issue for many fans of more upscale casual sneakers is that each pair is a small investment. If you’re dropping half of a paycheck on a pair of kicks, you’re probably not going to be wearing them out somewhere they could get dirty (or if you do, you’ve already got some sneaker-specific cleaning products on hand). But given House of Future’s desire to have easily cleanable shoes and pricing roughly the same as many more casual pairs of sneakers — and roughly half of what many new Air Jordans cost — it makes wearing more upscale shoes a lot less scary.
“At the end of the day, we’re trying to create something that’s usable and wearable,” Nath says. “They come at a great price point ($100-120), and shoes of that style and level of quality are typically in the $300 to $500 range. If you buy a $300 or $500 shoe, you don’t want to wear them to the bar. It’s both for consumers who typically do buy that more expensive shoe but want to build out basics that they don’t have to worry too much about and also the younger, more aspirational customer who follows conceptual fashion and understands these things, but the accessibility isn’t there because of the price point.”