Tuesday, April 28, 2009

brains and beauty in United Nude's architectural footwear

by Frédérik Sisa

I'd like to introduce you to my little friend, Standard Complaint No. 1. I hinted at it in my previous post, but I thought I'd set the scene for this week's missive by articulating it more clearly. Briefly, it goes something like this. It helps if you read the following sentence using a whiny voice. "Waaah - women get all the fun variety of clothes and shoes and accessories, with lots of colours and shapes and styles, while men get varying degrees of L.L. Bean." Of course, as a friend point out all this variety comes with beauty expectations - a fair point worth musing about in a future post - but for the most part, Standard Complaint No. 1 is that men don't have nearly the fashion freedom and flexibility women have. Call it shoe envy, fashion envy. whatever. I promise not to drag it up too often. Nobody likes a whiner, right? With that in mind, here's a perfect example of SC#1: United Nude

There are plenty of great designer brands out there in women's footwear - Blahnik, of course, Louboutin, Balenciaga, Martin Margiela. Would it be heresy to declare United Nude an easy equal? What’s that? Equal to Blahnik? Oh yes, I think so.

Take a look at Mobius, named after the iconic mathematical object in which a
Strip forms a surface with only one side. (Take a strip of paper, give it a half twist, and join the ends together – voila, a strip on which if you were to draw a line, you would eventually reach your starting point after traveling across both “sides” of the strip.)
As designed, UN’s flagship Mobius consists of a single strip that “forms, at once, the sole, heel, foot-bed and upper.” It’s available in different heel heights (6cm, 9cm). Gorgeous; I can see why this is UN’s iconic design.

But a number of other designs stand out, like this one (Porn):Also, this one, inspired by the famous Eames chair (if you’ve never sat in one, oh you’re missing out):
Aw, heck, check out the whole product line for yourself.

And just as I was picture how these shoes would pair with clothes – the index page shows a very nice application of Mobius with a reliable pair of skinny blue jeans and black blouse – a bit of website excavation revealed some snappy lookbooks. Peak inside this one to see a model wearing the shoes while garbed in Buttonhole fashions.

What makes UN’s designs so appealing isn’t just the refined aesthetic, or the variations they offer on each core design concept (note the use of buckles and straps), or even sex appeal with lots of class; it’s that the shoes also have a brainy character. The structural foot support (as in the porn, which slides the footbed through a loop that serves as both heel and upper), the use of straps; this is architecture. (No surprise, there; one of UN’s co-designers is Rem D. Koolhaas, nephew to the well-known architect Rem Koolhaas.) UN is one of the rare brands that offers shoes as exciting in concept as in aesthetics.

If that isn’t enough, there’s also the price. Where Blahniks and Louboutins can cost over a grand, UN’s products are surprisingly, perhaps at times relatively, affordable. Pump/flats Mono Lo are $85, structurally bold Cosmos are $485, and the rest fall in between. Astonishing, really.

Now, ladies, if you happen to own a pair of UN shoes, you might be able to answer the obvious next question: how do these feel when out there in the real world?


5 comments:

Diana said...

I own 2 pairs and every time I wear them I get the best comments. Might be time to buy a third.

Frederik Sisa said...

Awesome! May I ask which ones?

elise said...

i love them, i have mobius n eamz n the one with interchangeable strap

nirinia said...

I own, oh, gods, I'm not sure I want to tell you the number! I'll let slip that it passed 5 a year or so ago. They are part of a substantial collection.

The letter is buttery, and they feel divine on. I swear to the Eamz, fantastic on and they always draw a heep of comments. My latest purchase is the Cosmo, perhaps also my current favourites. I feared they would be awkward to walk in, but they feel just like any other pair of heels. Though more comfortable than most.

Frederik Sisa said...

Thanks for sharing! It's nice to know that UN doesn't just have the looks, but also the functionality and comfort. That's value. :)

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