by Izzy Ruiz for The Cannon Media Group
It’s been said the unrequited love for a 19-year-old Venetian inspired a weary and married Ernest Hemingway to write The Old Man and the Sea. The insufferable loss of his third wife ignited Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to build the glorious Taj Majal in her honor. Helen of Troy will forever be known as the “face that launched a thousand ships.” For a thousand lifetimes and for a thousand more, men will move mountains and create magnificent masterpieces impassioned by la douleur exquise. Such love and pain also inspired a young Dutch architect by the name of Rem D Koolhaas to create an object d’art, hoping to win back his lover’s heart — an exquisite pair of shoes. But this Cinderella story doesn’t quite end like the fairytale. Rather, the journey for this lovelorn artist led to the creation of a sumptuously modern footwear brand wryly named United Nude.
In his quest to turn lemons into lemonade, Rem shopped around this forsaken shoe, which he named the Mobius, and found a partner and friend in Galahad Clark, a seventh generation shoemaker of the eponymous Clarks shoe brand. Over the past 10 years, they’ve fostered a brand that is steeped in the mind of an architect, developing not just a unique design aesthetic, but a concept founded in function.
We talked to Rem about the innovative stuctural and design aspect, the comfort of his shoes and more.
Funny enough, some of our most comfortable products look the wildest. Comfort is very important for us and we just recently made it even more important by hiring a very experienced Spanish shoe technician to help us with a more perfect fit and construction. Soon, we'll be known for being one of the most comfortable shoe brands in the world. This is important for the continuation of our growth.
One of these styles that personify the hybrid of style and comfort simply on sight alone are those from the Fold Deluxe collection. What are reminiscent of vibrant Mexican serapes, the Fold Deluxe pop with color and playful femininity, yet are as comfortable as stepping into a pair of slippers. Again, it’s the attention to function and design that makes UN a brand that is true to its origins.
The Fold construction is a very fluent one. The upper portion of the shoe wraps around the foot like a scarf. The outside of the upper is entirely elasticated and the lining is 100% leather, so the shoe adapts to your foot while not losing its shape. The other shoes in the Fold series like the Fold Hi, Mid and Lo are perhaps even more comfortable due to their more voluminous toe shape: It's great when your toes are a bit freed up.
The idea of freedom speaks volumes to the identity of this ever-evolving brand. The freedom of past love gave wings to a designer who in turn created freedom from trends, freedom from fashion’s discomforts and freedom for every type of customer to find a style that suits them. Their collections run the gamut from bold and abstract, attracting the likes of Lady Gaga, to the simply chic to wear from day to night.
Most of our clients have their own balanced opinion about design. When you make products that are pure, you are more likely to attract a like-minded client. Most of our fans are confident, educated and have an independent spirit.
UN has also launched a men’s collection as well as accessories, and limited-edition collaborations with fellow Dutch designers including Mattijs van Bergen and couturier Iris Van Herpen. United Nude is available in 40 countries and 12 flagships including Tel Aviv, Seoul, Madrid and New York. You can also order online, with free shipping if ordering in the EU and North America. For more information, visit unitednude.com.
Editorial photograhed by Jayme Thornton
Creative Director, CANNON
Produced and Styled by Izzy Ruiz for The Cannon Media Group
Hair and Makeup by Rob Harmon for CK One Cosmetics at Anderson Hopkins
Additional reporting by Grace Graham