Nephew of Rem Koolhaas, this groundbreaking designer introduced 3D printing in his “sculptural” footwear collection five years before Nike.
The Cure for a Broken Heart
Rem D. Koolhaas, the nephew of the famous Rem Koolhaas, is a Dutch-born architect and designer trained at the Technical University of Delft in Holland. Koolhaas is the creative director and founder of the women’s footwear brand United Nude. The story of this ground-breaking brand begins with a “broken heart”, as the architect admitted. Rem’s attempt to get the girl back was made by scaling down architecture and design to its most vulnerable level: a woman shoe. Koolhaas’s initial works were praised by Miuccia Prada and Sergio Rossi, but the brand United Nude was launched in 2003 when he met Galahad Clark, the seventh generation of Clark’s shoemaking dynasty. Galahad was impressed by the Möbius shoe design, which was the first model of the brand. After several collaborations, actually United Nude is considered an icon brand in producing the world’s most technically advanced footwear. The brand is called United Nude because the team works and collaborates in a completely open and transparent way.
The Philosophy of “Downsized Architecture”
The launch of the “Möbius” shoe was a success, for its impactful design. This model was different from anything known before: it required new construction methods, using surprising materials for a shoe. The aim was to cross the border between industrial design and fashion with a single high heel, despite its simple shape. The shoe features long fibre-reinforced nylon heels and it traces a continuous loop from the heel to the front. This shape was inspired by the Barcelona chair designed by Mies Van Der Rohe for the International Exposition.
This is the core philosophy of the brand: downsizing architecture to a smaller level, keeping its principles. The illusion of dynamicity was explored by mixing colours and materials, and the concepts are a play on space and gravity. The “Fold” boot has a single strip around the foot, which creates a fluid movement; the “Peel”, designed by Waldo Rejinders, features one leather line that wraps around the foot becoming the heel. The “Eamz” is conceptually inspired by Charles and Ray Eames’ famous aluminum office chair, featuring a heel in light-weight steel. In the NOVA shoe by Zaha Hadid for United Nude is evident the architectural and sculptural influence. Several horizontal layers are shifted to create a cantilever for the heel, which elevates seven inches above the ground.
A Disruptive Design
The innovating process is continual for Koolhaas, and it goes far beyond new colours or materials. The designer is known for pioneering new manufacturing techniques and his championing of 3D printing is a prime example. The Van Herpen shoes are an interpretation of a banyan tree. The 3D-printed model consists of a mass of injection-molded vines or roots surrounding the foot. The body is truly transformed into sculpture and extended, in order to answer to the complexity of the environment.
The Lo Res Project was another example of breaking-rules concepts: recognizable objects were recreated in its most simplified, triangular form, including a Lamborghini Countach, a high-heeled shoe, Verner Panton chair and the Statue of Liberty.