Shoe designs that are ‘out of ordinary’ is a term that mildly describes United Nude. As you walk into their brightly lit store, what you see on the shelves can be easily mistaken as art pieces. Each of the footwear is lined up perfectly in their designated section — an aesthetic that the brand heavily carries in their stores across 50 countries, including the most recent city, Kuala Lumpur.
United Nude is founded by Rem D Koolhaas and Galahad Clark in 2003 and since then, they’ve definitely made a name in the industry as the leader of both architecture and footwear. Anything that is designed by the brand is described as “a reinterpretation of an architectural object or seen as an open invitation to push the edges of form, movement, colours and materials”, and judging by the look of their innovative footwear designs — it is one-of-a-kind.
However, like most consumers, there is one important factor that will always be considered to be the utmost priority (to some, it may be secondary) when it comes to purchasing any garments, especially footwear is comfort. High fashion and out-of-ordinary fashion items are always perceived as uncomfortable and that is true in most cases — for example, that pair of sky-high platform heels looks excruciatingly painful to watch but fits you like a glove. United Nude may fall under that category as their footwear designs are not something you see very often, but can something so aesthetically pleasing be as comfortable? We asked Rem D Koolhaas on his opinion and how he strikes the perfect balance between the two.
Design proportions and balance is important — and I learned that from being trained as an architect. The first day in architecture school was about proportions so we learned everything from The Golden Ratio to Leonardo Da Vinci. As an architect, I’ve learned how to look at things and figure out what’s the right balance and sometimes I see in fashion nowadays — designs that go wrong, for example, sneakers that are too chunky are usually way out of proportions.
Comfort is always been important for us, to me especially, that the shoes are as comfortable as they can be. In the beginning, we would make really crazy high heel shoes and we still do it occasionally. But even for the high heels, we try our best to make them comfortable.
I just want people to happy with our products, and that feel-good factor from fashion has to be the comfort element. I don’t wear uncomfortable shoes or clothes myself — so why would anyone?
Currently, we have a team of designers. We sketch, create prototype, draw them in 3D in the computer then we print them out in their 3D form. We actually use a lot of 3D printing in our development but not much for the final product, only if it’s limited edition/collaboration. It is really for prototyping. Sculpting is done as well by hand if we just want minor changes.
The entire process usually takes about four months or longer to complete, depending on the complexity of the design. The development stage itself will sometimes take more than a year if the design has much more architectural concept.
If you want to wear like a really tight dress for a special party — fine, it’s for an event. It’s like a performance. In general, you want to treat others on how you want to be treated.
I think fashion and shoes have become a little more fragmented. So hybrid sneakers and sandals, or somewhere along the lines of sneaker-sandals. Lightweight footwear is definitely something that brands are trying to achieve, including myself as I believe in light products. Bright colours are also important this season too.