WORDS RACHEL EDWARDS
When you think of the future what do you think of? Doom? Gloom? A Winter stuck inside washing clothes that no-one will see you wear? Well, let sunglasses brand Hot Futures install some positivity into what might feel like a bleak few months ahead.
Don’t get me wrong, Hot Futures haven’t had an easy ride since they launched their first collection in 2019. Founded and run by married couple Jake and Tanya, they launched their first collection only months before the country went into lockdown. And they are by no means exempt from the fear and uncertainty that all independent brands have had to deal with.
So what helped them keep their head above water? It’s both their growing online following of dedicated fans and their unbridled ambition which comes from knowing exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing. Their drive doesn’t come from the superficiality of numbers of sales or creating a large following - for this brand these are simply bi-products. Instead they are intent on fostering a community based on shared values of fun and positivity and in doing so remind us that we can always choose to access these despite the struggles we’re going through on a global scale.
Can sunglasses save the world? Maybe not, but what I do know is that they can make the world vastly more exciting. F Word sat down with founder Jake Jarvis to discuss just how hot the future can get.
For more information and to shop visit www.hotfutures.co.uk.
Rachel Edwards: What made you both want to start your own sunglasses brand?
Jake Jarvis: Myself and Tanya both started off working in vintage clothing so we were constantly curating vintage looks. At the time we were selling in Shoreditch and there are just so many amazing expressive people there so we wanted to channel that creativity into something we loved. Sunglasses are such a nice piece - they’re perfect if you’re out with your friends at a festival or you’re travelling abroad and you have that one fashion piece that you can take with you - they’re part of the journey.
R.E: You’re right! They’re such an easy thing to carry with you when you travel that can make such a huge difference to your outfit.
J.J: Yeah and there’s so much you can do with colours and shapes - even the shape of the pair can change an outfit! I like the idea that it’s that special piece that accompanies you.
R.E: Yeah, a lot of them look like statement pieces. And how did you go from the initial concept to opening up your own store?
J.J: The dream that we always had was to have our own store with the shiny lights, and we opened this in late 2017 focussing on the vintage. The idea that people could come from all over the world especially to that area and pop in and meet us and experience it sort of drove what we were doing. Once we opened our own store we quickly decided that we wanted to channel our own creativity into making our own eyewear designs. And it all came together - we just wanted to create a space where we could play music and have friends over and meet new people and just have a spot on the map.
R.E: It’s like a whole experience isn’t it? You get a real feel for what the brand stands for the second you walk in. How long was the process between planning and working in markets to opening up the store?
J.J: I’d been working in vintage fashion for six years before we opened the store and for Tanya it was ten years. The collection itself took about a year, so we started by making the shapes and discussing how we would design it and because we had the store idea we wanted to make sure we had a good range of styles. It’s a big thing when you launch a collection - how do you make sure there aren't just a few pieces in the middle of a room? Then we went to the sampling stage and finally we launched in 2019. So from the beginning of the process to when we launched, I think that was a year. It’s very personal so when you get to the moment that you open it’s nerve-wracking but when you see customers come in and say ‘Wow I’ve never heard of this, this is amazing’ and really dig it, it’s so rewarding. The highs are massively high.
R.E: And when you were growing up, is this something you could see yourself doing?
J.J: No not at all. Tanya’s more of a natural fashion person - she’s got amazing style and she absolutely loves it. When I was growing up my dad was a photographer so he was more of a creative and he would tell me stories of working with the likes of Pink Floyd, so that was one side. On my mum’s side everyone was professionals and doctors so I had this really weird mix where I did a lot of formal education but I always had the art side as well. I spent loads of time in the art room because it was my favourite place but then I was always told to get the grades. Before I went into this I actually spent a couple of years in a law firm as a qualified lawyer and I found it really difficult because I had such a creative side to me that I needed to explore. Myself and Tanya started putting groundwork into our own brand and as soon as this opportunity came I just had to say there’s no way I’m spending my life in an office. So I’ve always enjoyed art but I never specifically wanted to design eyewear.
R.E: Did you have any backlash when you told people you were quitting your job as a lawyer? Were people telling you you were crazy or it’s a bad idea?
J.J: Oh definitely - I mean my family were super supportive from all sides and Tanya’s always been incredibly supportive of that too but obviously some people were like ‘This guy’s insane’. I think once our friends and family that were close to both me and Tanya knew that we had a real opportunity and connection together and could create something really special, everyone became super supportive.
R.E: Yeah I think when you’re deliberating over something and you decide to fully commit and jump in then all of the worries or anxiety about the alternative choice just disappear. Your brain is free.
J.J: Yeah and it just gave us a lot of drive. It’s a really affirming thing to say ‘this is actually who I am as a person and not who I should be’.
R.E: It’s inspiring for other people who are in a similar position! It’s brave to follow your gut and leave your job as a lawyer for something as unpredictable as fashion. How did you and Tanya meet in the first place?
J.J: We actually met because we both had vintage businesses so we started off like ‘Hi I’m the trader next door...’.
R.E: [Laughs] This sounds so old school!
J.J: We used to get to travel all around the world and in the UK sourcing incredible vintage pieces and then we started doing it together because two pairs of hands are better than one... from then we were inseparable.
R.E: How does it feel to be married and working together? Do you ever argue or clash?
J.J: I actually think we’re that annoying couple who don’t really. We do sometimes disagree because when you’re creative you have things that you prefer and it’s very personal but we try and do it in a good way so if someone has an idea they want to push then the other person tries to drive it like ‘Ok I really like it, how do you feel about this or we try that?’ and then we bring both ideas together so it’s quite collaborative. It’s a whole process - if you’re the kind of person where one little thing is going to throw you off the edge then it’s not for you! We’re in it together.
R.E: It’s probably good because you’re forced to communicate with one another more than most couples…
J.J: Yeah, what we do is not just our job, it’s very personal to us. Normal life and our ‘Hot Futures’ life kind of are combined all the time.
R.E: Definitely. So you only launched last year - how has the madness of 2020 affected you?
J.J: Yeah it’s definitely been tough. The bad thing was losing the store for the period that we lost it. It was such a focal point for us to grab a coffee and turn up to work every day in the store or next door with the rest of the team and it was just really hard to let that go. But then we sort of said ‘look let’s use this time wisely’ so we did a lot of designing and we got a little puppy. We had this nice, relaxed, almost semi-retired lifestyle where we could be creative. Because we love connecting instantly with people walking into the store we pushed on trying to be more vocal and present on socials. Our industry has been massively hit but I feel for night-time industries and festivals too - we always went to festivals every summer, our brand’s very much a feel good brand and all of those types of events just fell away. The creative ecosystem fits together to create the experience that people really enjoy and that has been lost.
R.E: In a way you’ve been forced to deal with one of the worst things that can happen when you launch a business - touch wood! If you can get through this then you can get through anything.
J.J: Yeah we go through incredible highs and lows all the time - it’s the nature of having a small business. We have customers from all over the world which is great because it’s hot all year round in some places so we sell throughout winter. And sunglasses are becoming much more of an everyday fashion piece too. Now that we’re going into winter which looks like it might be another difficult period we have to keep that spark alive and hold onto faith that things will go back to normal and people will be able to meet in person.
R.E: Yeah it looks like your international community is growing by the minute. Do you have long term plans to open up stores around the world?
J.J: That would be an absolute dream! Right now we’re just trying to establish ourselves here and make sure we have a core understanding of who we are and then go from there. It is amazing to think that people come from all over the world to London and during lockdown we were doing live streams on Instagram and we had people joining from LA, Washington, New York, Australia… it’s mad because we are still a small brand but we were able to connect with them!
R.E: What’s one thing you’d like to see change in the fashion industry?
J.J: There are some amazing brands out there - the independent designers should be having a good time at the moment because they have such easy access to people. The authenticity of independent brands is really cool. If you’re dealing with independent brands you’re actually buying from real people who make real things and have real dreams and you want to support those people when you buy into something that’s new or different. I would like to see more independent brands have the opportunity to open their own stores because I like to see it, feel it and talk to people about it.
R.E: Where did the name ‘Hot Futures’ come from?
J.J: At the time we came up with it we thought we were going through a crazy time - which makes it sound really silly now after everything this year. At the time Donald Trump was just getting going and everyone was feeling really negative about the world so we wanted to create a brand that was focused on good vibes and positivity. We wanted to make sure we did something fun and expressive.
R.E: And you can always focus on the good, even in a bad situation. This year reminded a lot of people of what’s important. What excites you most about the future?
J.J: We’re expecting a baby in January so obviously that! We have a lovely family of two cats, a dog and soon to be a baby so that’s super exciting! And with the brand we’re excited about where it takes us, the experiences we have and the people we meet. The brand isn’t about selling thousands and thousands of products for us. It’s a real journey and it’s part of our life. I’m just excited for the opportunity to work with more people and create more products and enrich our lives and other people’s lives that come along on the journey!
R.E: In a world that feels like it’s fixated more and more on quick fixes and instant gratification it’s nice to hear that you’re in it for the long haul and that you appreciate each step. Although it looks like you are moving fast!
J.J: Outside looking in it seems like everything’s moving quickly, and inside looking out it feels like it's moving so slowly. We have had some incredible achievements and we are super happy about where we’ve come from and where we are now. But it's an everyday process so it’s only when you look back you realise how far you’ve come.
R.E: Yes and it all joins up! What’s your advice to young aspiring designers who want to do something similar?
J.J: I think just be authentic to yourself. When you start off it’s difficult because there are so many different pressures so I think be authentic - start slow. Find people like yourself or customers who like what you like because you can never not be true to yourself as long as you do what you love. You can do things that you think are a good idea or you can do things just because they work for you and they reflect you and your creativity and I think if you work through that process you’ll find people who will always appreciate that.
R.E: That’s really good advice and I think that’s what gives you the drive to see this as a lifelong project - people so often jump from thing to thing but when you do something that's authentic to you, you can keep going through tough times as well.
J.J: You have to have a reason as to why you’re doing it at the core of what you do because it is hard. You can look at so many different brands on Instagram and think ‘oh but they’re all doing so much better than me’ but you don’t know that that's necessarily true. Actually people are looking the other way and thinking ‘that brand is smashing it! I love what they’re doing’. It just takes time.
R.E: And Instagram always makes things look like they happen overnight. People wouldn't know that you started off in markets, they wouldn't know that it took a whole process to get to where you are! So…I can’t resist, when was the last time you ‘threw shade’?
J.J: [Laughs] Threw shade! I don’t really throw shade! I don’t really have the nasty throwing shade side but maybe I should try it out.
R.E: [Laughs] After speaking to you I can tell you don’t! Okay, real last question… what’s your favourite f-word?
J.J: I like the idea of setting foundations for everything. If you have strong foundations you can start from the right place!
R.E: You were ready for that one! Did you know I was going to ask that?
J.J: I promise I had no idea that would be a question!
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