Renowned for its eye-catching 3D-printed heels resembling works of art, the origins of the global footwear brand was in 1999 when the nephew of starchitect Rem Koolhaas was still a student of architecture. It was the demise of a relationship at that time which proved to be a turning point for Koolhaas who, in an attempt to mend his broken heart, sought solace by designing the prototype of his very first shoe: a hollow, loop-shaped heel inspired by an infinite loop known as the Möbius strip — this specific model continues to be one the brand’s best-sellers to date.
Not long after founding United Nude, Koolhaas would unite with other like-minded creatives including Zaha Hadid, Iris van Herpen and Issey Miyake to create a variety of fantastical designs that seemingly defy the law of physics. “We’re a very open-minded company and very experimental so we like to try new things; however, we also know what we want and who we are. This also what I love about collaborating with other designers and creatives,” Koolhaas reiterates while holding up a pair of 12-inch high black platform boots with risqué gold embellishments that were specially designed for Lady Gaga’s fragrance ad campaign for Fame in 2012.
According to Koolhaas, every design usually takes about four months of development, even if it’s just a single product. “It can be longer if the construction of the shoe is really complicated. This was especially true in the beginning when we came up with our first products as we had to sort of reinvent a whole new way of shoemaking. The Mobius itself took about two years to develop.” The most important process in Koolhaas’ work is to figure out the perfect design proportions with every new release: “I enjoy looking at things and trying figure out how to find the right balance. So, when I see trends like chunky sneakers, I really can’t comprehend its purpose. I feel that the United Nude customer also shares these sentiments because they have an eye for design.”
“For our next collection, we will include large plastic buckles on the uppers which couldn’t have been done a couple years ago because people weren’t ready to accept it. As for shoes, we’ll be releasing hybrid sneaker-sandals and lightweight sneakers. A lot of today’s fashion sneakers, especially the chunky ones, are heavy to walk around in. Bright colours are very important for this season. We are lucky that we have come up with some strong, iconic styles that really define the signature of the brand such as the Mobius and Eams.”
When asked about his predictions for shoe trends in 2019, Koolhaas stated: “Fashion and therefore shoes are becoming more fragmented. You have brands like Off White and Vetements that have helped to push the boundaries of fashion further. Just like how we see ourselves as sort of the leader of architectural footwear, these brands have also become leaders in mixing street with high fashion. I do wish there was a little less sheepish hype around these trends; but I do welcome the idea of established brands becoming more experimental. It’s good for United Nude.”