His Möbius shoe shot him to fame in 2003 and Rem D. Koolhaas became widely known as the designer of the first high heel that crossed over from fashion design to industrial design. He was a heartbroken architecture student when he first drew the shoe on a piece of paper a few years earlier. Whether the girl who left him was the inspiration for the feminine object or whether it was his childhood obsession with sneakers, his drawing did not come from a fascination with fashion, but from his interest in spatial design. And he knew immediately that he designed something radical.
“It was an exciting feeling”, Koolhaas recalls. “So I made a prototype.” The model of the hollow loop-shaped high heel was made out of cardboard and tinfoil, and was strategically placed in his uncle’s office: the other Rem Koolhaas, world famous architect and cofounder of OMA. “My timing was deliberate”, admits Koolhaas. “I was helping my uncle with a New York store design for Prada and I was curious if the Prada executives would notice the shoe.” They did, and subsequently Koolhaas flew to Milan to meet renowned shoe maker Sergio Rossi. “He urged me to launch my own label”, says Koolhaas, “because nobody in the footwear industry was doing anything like my looped heel.” When Koolhaas’ search for a partner led him to Galahad Clark of the Clarks shoes dynasty, United Nude was born.
Möbius became a success and the two partners were perfectly matched to push the boundaries of footwear design and collaborate with other boundary-pushing people such as fashion designers Iris van Herpen, Issey Miyake and architect Zaha Hadid.
Koolhaas’ designs have extended way beyond innovative footwear. “I tend to look for solutions for any product with a bad design,” he explains. “Take a car; a pretty dumb design.” He supports this statement by telling a story: “I experienced water damage to my car one day and was astonished to learn that replacing a car radio costs thousands of dollars because the whole system is integrated. And not only that”, he continues, “these components are placed inside a shell that could last a human lifetime, whereas the lifespan of an average car is only twenty years.” This line of thinking got him to experiment with his own car design resulting in the Lo Res car (pictured below) – a simplified, nearly abstract version of an iconic Lamborghini that is compact, not conform the rules of conventional car design and minimalist.
The experimental car has arrived in Los Angeles where it is on display at a large hiphop music video production house. Koolhaas decided to follow his car and moved to L.A. early 2017. “I’ve been here three months now and it’s been exciting. There is an open-mindedness towards design, technology and art that suits me.” Planning to call L.A. home for a while, Koolhaas is collaborating with his distribution partner Evolution Fulfillment to expand United Nude into the North American market. But the main reason for coming to L.A. is to open a new United Nude concept store. “This one will be different from our flagship stores around the world in the sense that it is not merely a display of United Nude’s products”, reveals Koolhaas. “It will be a gallery event space, open on weekends for the public and by appointment for VIPs. I plan to collaborate with local and international artists, musicians and designers and we expect our doors to open at the end of March 2017.”
Special thanks to Renske Werner for this article.