Reworking The Blueprint

By Eliza Fitzgerald

Structure, form, beauty, and function: These four essential design components are shared between the studies of architecture and fashion design. Both art forms are linking together a whole new blueprint in the realm of shoes. So what happens when a Dutch architect and an English shoe designer decide to work together? The amazing collaboration of proportional beauty and structural design is born. That’s exactly the idea that Rem D Koolhaas and Galahad JD Clark came up with when they began their line of shoes, United Nude. Clark, a seventh generation shoe designer from England, and Koolhaas, a well-known Dutch trained architect, have created a brand that has wowed the world over in innovation. By taking the creative point of view from an inventive architect, and the design skills necessary from a shoe designer, these trend setting fashion forward shoes are created. Both of these artists have created the ideal company that interacts with architects, fashion designers, magazine editors and photographers.

United Nude was created in 2003, and since then has been redrawing a whole new look for the footwear industry. Creating shoes that challenge the rules of gravity and construction, United Nude is setting the bar high for competing footwear designers. The company has recognized itself as a fashion-forward brand at the intersection between design and fashion, and their unique designs have been grabbing the attention of women around the globe. One way the Amsterdam based company is breaking the mold in the art of shoe design, is the reworking of the basic concept of the high heel. By taking inspiration from structural design, architecture, furniture and modern technology, their lines of shoes are fun, interesting and certainly turn heads. The sleek silhouettes of the stealth F-117 fighter plane inspire their “stealth pumps”, while the “möbius shoe” is inspired by a famous, modern European chair.

Collaborations are also one of the ways that United Nude has been finding success in a time where their competitors have been struggling. Knowing that different countries consume different looks, styles, and products, United Nude has taken a whole new approach to globalization. By erasing constricting lines and opening up their artistic skills to other companies and products, they’ve enabled their success. For their Autumn/Winter collection they teamed up with an up-and-coming Dutch fashion designer, Antoine Peters. By taking his colorful arrow prints, they created a boot that was both fun, yet functional, and they’re planning on continuing this successful shoe into their spring collection. K-Swiss, another recognizable shoe company, has also teamed up with the brand to created the “K-Swiss Block”: a funky sneaker that has already found success here in the US. United Nude’s next action is the Asian market, with a big focus on the fast-growing and fashion-conscious country of China. By relocated the firm’s offices to Guangzhou, they’ve created a unique hub that works across the globe, welcoming fashion designers, photographers, artists and architects.

The company has primarily found its success with the trend of mixing art, photography and style into one brand. By mixing their carefree attitude and distinctive style, they’ve been able to distinguish themselves as a modern and profitable design company. “We want to make our lives as interesting as possible,” Koolhaas states. “The best way to do that is to integrate everything you do – work, art, architecture, fashion. To just do shoes alone would be boring.”*

Clark, co-founder of United Nude, also has been at the helm of another European innovated brand. Terra Plana, a shoe company based solely on the creation of fashion forward shoes from eco-friendly materials, is also changing the way of the footwear market. Since his takeover of the company in 2002, Clark has been rewarded and recognized as a leader in environmentally friendly shoe design and production. The company respects eco-friendly materials and incorporates them into their shoes’ materials, and brand message. Eco-friendly shoes have also found their way much closer to home. With the popularity of buying shoes constructed from recycled materials on the rise, retailers such as the Boston-based company New Balance introduced their eco-friendly sneaker last summer. Simple shoes, another popular shoe company, can also be found in boutiques and major retailers all around the Boston area, with an array of styles to choose from.

Although they’re primarily located in Europe, United Nude and Terra Plana have a NYC location, recently opened in August of last year, and their signature style of footwear has been copied and transpired to multiple well known US brands. With shoes being an accessory obsessed about around the globe, designers have been taking note of Clark and Koolhaas’ modern approach to design and style. With this season in fashion bringing even more fashion-forward styles of heels, brighter colors, higher platforms and edgier silhouettes, it’s hard to miss imitations of their world recognized style.

United Nude’s shoes, based on the concept of modern art, photography, and architecture, draw inspiration from these everyday occurrences. The same can be seen closer to home. Boston’s skyline has recently gone through some changes, reflecting the modern revolutionizing of both design and technology. The Zakim Bridge, and 111 Huntington Ave. (also known as the “R2-D2” building), both are turning heads in the world of modern architecture. Fashion design and building design both are based on the same principles of eye pleasing aesthetics, both of which reflect our culture’s obsession with style and trend.

LF, the trendy-upscale retailer located both in Wellesley Center and Newbury Street, has definitely noticed the modern style in their shoe collection. Their upcoming spring trends of chunky platformed heels and sleek yet edgy pumps are everywhere. Shoes line the shelves, each one defying new heights and funkier than the next. with themes like heavy hardware and refined construction seen in each shoe, its apparent that Clark and Koolhaas’ have had a major impact on shoe design and have created a movement that holds no bounds in the world of footwear.

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