FLAUNT MAGAZINE: 20TH ANNIVERSARY FEATURE

FLAUNT MAGAZINE: 20TH ANNIVERSARY FEATURE

United Nude, the European footwear brand, is debuting its 20th-anniversary collection with a set of evolved designs and new colorways. 
The brand launched in 2003, when architect Rem D Koolhaas, nephew and namesake of architect Rem Koolhaas of Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), joined forces with seventh-generation shoemaker Galahad Clark. With the guidance of the established Sergio Rossi in Italy, they created their first design, “the Möbius.” The result was a shoe with a single band forming the sole, heel, footbed, and upper of the shoe–inspired by the phenomenon of the Möbius strip, a single-sided surface with no boundaries.
With architecture in its DNA, United Nude has become a brand uniquely positioned at the intersection of fashion and design. Koolhaas’ commitment to creating products about clear concepts, elegance and innovation has earned collaborations with like-minded fashion innovators such as Iris Van Herpen and Issey Miyake and architects such as Ben Van Berkel and Zaha Hadid. While available in over 50 countries worldwide, United Nude has seven flagship stores in Amsterdam, London, New York, Vienna, Tel Aviv and Tokyo. A party will be held at the Amsterdam store this Summer to celebrate the 20th-anniversary with the design and fashion community, as well as customers.
Since the the Möbius, the brand has expanded to include men’s collections, boots, sneakers, sandals, and everything in between. We sat down with Koolhaas, creative director and founder, to learn more about the brand’s building blocks, collaborations, dream designs, and how he defines beauty.

 You founded United Nude 20 years ago. What has changed since then, what has stayed the same?

In 2003, on the 3rd day of the 3rd month, we launched the brand at a penthouse in Milan with the Möbius shoe. Since then, we have experimented, collaborated, and produced thousands of products, and it’s our experience that has changed us the most. However, our desire to create clever products for the future has never changed. People might think that we are after a specific look, but we are actually aiming for a better solution altogether. If something looks amazing, I’m very happy, but if something works very well and is clever, I’m genuinely excited!

What can you tell us about the upcoming 20th-anniversary collection?

Our designs feature ergonomic geometric shapes with architectural compositions. As we gradually move towards a simplified and more modular future, this also reflects in our collections, which are not standalone stories, but instead a continuous evolution towards a smarter future. Part of this simplification comes through amplification, meaning that some elements like laces will become louder, while other details will simplify or disappear. The original launch product, the Möbius shoe, is still among the top sellers of the brand and comes in a wide range of exciting colors and materials, such as a sporty perforated 3D neoprene mesh. Its fiber-reinforced nylon heela are now unpainted, and unpainted materials belong to the Future. The all-new Mega sneakers have a sole that’s square in the front and in the back. Square shapes belong to the future. Each of our designs is a conversation piece. Some are bigger conversations than others, but they all visually tell a story. That’s one of the aims for our designs.

Who are you designing for? What are the most important factors that go into the process of your designs?

We’re designing for our wearers and for ourselves. Our wearers are often design enthusiasts who are not afraid to stand out–be different and original. For ourselves, we create the products that we really want but cannot find anywhere else. I’m very interested in how things are made, and when you explore the methods of making, your designs become purer. I actually value engineering over design. Maybe that’s why our products look different.

How do you define beauty, both in your physical shoe design as well as in everyday life?

True visual beauty is an emotional experience and is related to perfection or perception thereof. When it comes to beauty in design, I think it’s defined by the perfection of shapes and proportions. In fact, I believe that more than 75% of visual beauty is in proportions. Materializations, colors, and details also matter, but they all come after that.

You mention that heartbreak was something that led you to begin United Nude. What is your advice for transcending that feeling into something purposeful?

It’s not uncommon in art forms to create pure works when one is in despair. Some of the best love songs about heartbreak and pain are there to prove it. I believe it’s also possible to turn something negative into something positive, like a broken heart into a big idea for an entirely new beginning. I didn’t design my first shoes to win back the girl that broke my heart, but I designed the shoes for the feet of the future. By creating something new, the past can be left behind. This was a radical moment in my life as I completely changed my path and became a shoemaker and a brand builder!

Besides shoes and fashion, what are other avenues you use to express your creativity?

I was trained as an architect, and I’m still designing buildings and interiors. From mostly unbuilt houses for myself to several United Nude stores around the world. In addition to shoes, we’ve ventured into other product categories such as hats, bags, watches, and are currently developing and essentials garment collection. The company's Lo-Res Project extended beyond footwear and accessories to include chairs and the lo-res car, which became a viral sensation after being featured in several music videos and received widespread recognition as a groundbreaking design.

What do you do in your free time to keep in touch with yourself?

I paint sometimes, I design a lot in my spare time. I walk on the beach with my family and dog. I work on cars and I build stuff. 

Projects I’m currently working on: United Nude Footwear, re-designing the United Nude Amsterdam store with my friend Alain Fouraux, Issey Miyake x United Nude Footwear, United Nude Accessories, United Nude Garments, building new Lo-res Car / Lo-res Motors, art projects.