In 2003 Rem D. Koolhaas started United Nude with Galahad Clark by launching a shoe especially designed to win back his ex-girlfriends’ heart. Which begs the question: What happened with the girl? His effort weren’t as successful as he thought they would be: “The girl didn’t want shoes, she wanted babies. Something I wasn’t ready for back then,” said Koolhaas. Flash forward a few years later and he is happily married, a father of three and continues to be one of the guiding spirits behind United Nude.
With a background in architecture and nephew of OMA architect Rem Koolhaas, its obvious that United Nudes’ designs have a strong architectural core and outstanding unique style. “I consider myself a bit of an outsider in the world of fashion, more of an architect than a shoe designer. I also design the United Nude stores - you can call me a brand builder or brand architect,” suggested Koolhaas.
Currently United Nude’s footwear and accessories are sold in 30 countries around the globe, the company has 10 flagship stores and is selling more then 200,000 pairs of shoes ever year. But the brand is best known for its statement pieces, which are mostly create in collaboration with other designers and artists such as Iris van Herpen and the architect Zaha Hadid. Even though United Nude is famous for its eye-catching designs, as the brand has grown it has ventured into making more everyday shoes as well. “Those special pieces are still there and this is what we really are. It is not about how crazy we are, but how obsessed we are with pushing boundaries,” said Koolhaas.
United Nudes’ last collaboration is with Iris van Herpen. “I remember seeing her work and I strongly felt the urge to work with her, even before meeting her in person. It wasn’t the first time we worked together and her last collection was an incredible success. She moved her show from Paris Haute Couture to Paris ready-to-wear, which gave us more time to perfectly develop the sketches she delivered. It often comes down to re-inventing shoes, since she always wants something that hasn’t been done before,’’ reveals Koolhaas.
After the impressive footwear that United Nude created with Zaha Hadid, who is known for her signature parametric architectural style, the obvious question that comes to mind is will there be collaboration between the two “Koolhazen’’ in the near future? The artist hedges his bets by saying: “’I’m not sure if that will ever happen, but who knows…”
With the international success of United Nude, Koolhaas has been spending a lot of time on the road with rare chanced to return to his hometown in the Netherlands. And what does this innovative artist miss most about his birthplace? “I miss the richness of cultural events. In Amsterdam there’s always something to do like live music festivals or theater and the people are very relaxed and sociable, I miss that too.”
Photography Melody Lieftink
Styling Edwin Gouden van Handel
Make up artist: Sjarde Kirioma
Model: Cath Vandersmissen @ de boekers