United Nude began with a broken heart; Rem D. Koolhaas scaled back his architectural products to create the Möbius shoe in an attempt to win back his Cinderella. Though he didn’t get the girl, he won the hearts of women around the world with his modern futuristic collection that fuses design, technology and fashion. Whether he’s building a new Prada store, or creating an award-winning shoe, his proportions are always the same—it’s just the boundaries that are tested. Trained in architecture at the Delft University of Technology in Holland, he worked under his renowned uncle of the same name before venturing on his own and creating his conceptual footwear line, United Nude. United Nude launched in 2003 with his iconic shoe the Möbius, which still remains in his collection. It was the first shoe made from a single strip of carbon fiber, which is one of the strongest and lightest materials on the planet, and is more commonly used to create sports car bodies. His collections are all infused with architectural concepts and innovative technologies, yet still pay homage to the greats.
Rem has been a busy man of late, opening three flagship stores around the world in four weeks. He has a hand on the approach to everything he does, from the design of the shoes to the store. He even built LED lighting that changes colors as it’s synchronized to his personal iPod playlist—creating his own ‘Rem-pire.’ Says Rem on the matter: “I am an architect and it’s almost easier for me to design a store than to design a range of shoes.” Here SOMA catches up with him on the eve of his store opening on Bond St. in NY.
What is the aesthetic behind Unite Nude?
I like to create something that is clear and you don’t have to use many words, and that’s what United Nude is about. When we do something that’s a little more complicated, we have to explain it like architects do with a diagram, to explain it to the outside world. Most of the time my designs speak for themselves—that’s what I would say is my signature. We also like to do different shapes and sculptures of products that are less designed, or we develop something that we did before with the same shapes or materials, because not everyone wants extreme products.
How would you describe your flagship boutique?
The store looks like a science fiction set. The concept behind the store is that it’s a very dark store and the only lights are where there is product. We want to create something interesting that will draw people even if you don’t buy anything to understand the brand better. United Nude has a very strong identity; we’re very original. What I’m doing is for real. I’m not lazy, I work hard, I want to take things to the next level. It’s like climbing a mountain and it’s a pretty big mountain.
What does the future hold for you?
We’re starting a Men’s collection next year, developing furniture, and also creating a real car. I don’t think there are any limits to where our interests go. As we get bigger and better known, we invest everything back into the company. We are a futuristic, modern brand but there are a lot of trends we will not be a part of. The goal is to be a bigger brand and to do bigger things, but we don’t know what’s going to happen.
- Hillary Latos
This reading is by Lena, who has no idea this palm belongs to Rem D. Koolhaus.
1. This is a person who is very detail-oriented and also very flexible. He has a great talent for languages because of the way those traits combine.
2. Mates for life like a swan! He is innately and instinctively monogamous and this requires no special effort on his part.
3. He has, in adulthood, found ways and places where his honesty actually works to support his life.
4. An incredibly strong communicator, with a deep-seated belief in honesty, which has caused him many difficulties in youth. Was always honest about all his personal eccentricities.
5. A good strong constitution, probability of a long life and a tendency to get headaches.
6. He is not overly fond of machinery. Or rather will enjoy small machinery such as clockwork or music boxes, but not big, stinky, loud machinery.
7. Although he naturally would like to be a well-considered member of society (and would have been willing to play by the rules–if it were possible for him) he has been forced, by circumstance and the strictures of society, to lives somewhat outside the boundaries.
8. He is neither fully dominant nor a team player. He is capable of both leading and following.