Last September, during the Paris Fashion Week, Yoshiyuki Miyamae presented his latest Spring-Summer 2017 collection for the ISSEY MIYAKE brand, baptized Microcosm. Taking inspiration directly from nature, this show was like a tale about the encounter between a conceptualized vision of fashion and technology. In the second part of this exclusive series, Rem D. Koolhaas tells us everything about the backstory of this collaboration with ISSEY MIYAKE, his passion for collaborations with a purpose and how he plans the future of his brand, United Nude.
Allan JOSEPH: Can you tell us how you ended up working with ISSEY MIYAKE? How did you come to develop this specific shoe model for the show? Was the process very different from what you’re used to?
Rem D. Koolhaas : « For this one, we designed the shoes on computer with a 3D software and we used 3D printing for the prototypes, but the final product was cut from wood because we wanted to make that shoe very pure and very simple. We started to collaborate with ISSEY MIYAKE on another couple of shoes and then, they also needed a shoe for the runway show. I was really honored of course. We just started working together and didn’t have so much time. They wanted something maybe similar to what we did before, a similar concept, but more wearable, more suited for the everyday life. The objective was to create something that was very pure and iconic. »
A.J.: Can you tell us more bout your brand and on the backstory of this collaboration? What specifically decided you to agree on working with ISSEY MIYAKE?
Rem : « United Nude is known for making architectural inspired shoes, we’ve already worked with famous designers like Iris Van Herpen (whom we did 9 seasons with) and also architects like Zaha Hadid (we did 2 shoes with her). We have actually opened a U.N. store in Tokyo earlier this year. As a result, my japanese business partner, who was already looking for somebody to work with, came with the idea to collaborate with ISSEY MIYAKE. To me it immediatly made a lot of sense, especially considering it’s one of my favorite designer. In my opinion, they are among the only ones in the fashion world that are true innovators and are not afraid to create their own materials, their own style, which makes it one of the most recognizable style of the industry. You can easily recognize ISSEY MIYAKE clothes from a distance, without them having a big logo on it. »
A.J.: Then, consistency was the driving force behind this collaboration? Or was it your common creative sensibility, your very specific take on shoes? Was it you who decided working on the wood material? Was it the right bet in the end?
Rem : « We also have that creative approach quite often, therefore, there was already a great connexion. Our goal then, with this collection, was to have the same recognizable code, to create something very iconic. I was trained has an architect and when I saw this design coming to life, I actually suggested using wood. Wood is a really inspiring material, infused with something traditional, very connected to Japanese traditional shoes, like Geta sandals for example. For me that was already an inspiration, and the brand was open for it. It was a good idea for many reasons, especially the lack of time. Wood allowed us to develop prototypes and products faster, plus, it enables the end product to be flexible and thus, to make a spin of it later with another material. That is something I would still like to do because I think it’s such a cool and recognizable shoe that came out of it. »
A.J.: What is your opinion on collaborations in general? How does it usually go? Why did this one felt so special?
Rem : « A lot of people collaborate and they just put the print of somebody onto something else to somebody else. But when we collaborated with creators, either it is ISSEY MIYAKE, Iris Van Herpen or Zaha Hadid, we do everything from scratch. Like in art, we started with a blank page and tried to make something completely unique, conceived especially for this project. I find it’s a more in depth way of collaborating : when you really join forces, create a process, that’s how you come to create great things, ones you wouldn’t create all by yourself. That’s the fun thing about collaborations. That’s how you push boundaries together, either if it’s in technology, in shape, in purity or whatever. You really use each other as a stepping stone in the creative process and that’s why I like collaborating so much and why I do it a lot, even though sometimes it’s more difficult than others. But with ISSEY MIYAKE, we’re so much on the same line and are so both respectful and appreciative of each others work, I mean, they have a great team of very talented designers, that it’s been a tremendous way of working together I have to admit. As a result, we are already considering working together again on the season to come. When you grow together, you always end up becoming better and better and that’s something for me that’s very intriguing and makes me excited about the next collaboration. »
A.J.: What’s the next step now? Do you already have new ideas for the next collaborations? What is your long term, greater goal for U.N.?
Rem : « What I want is to try and see if we can further develop this particular product in different type of materials, to figure out how we can make it appealing to a wider audience. I’m always trying to create something destined to a large group of people. I know that sometimes the price point is already cutting off a certain type of consumers, however, our products remain reasonable and affordable. Like ISSEY MIYAKE’s products, I consider they are worth their price because the material is really special, the design is cool and, more importantly, it’s very comfortable. That’s something I really like about ISSEY MIYAKE (same with the shoes, because normally when we make a shoe, like with Iris Van Herpen, we develop really high heels, really high platforms and it’s difficult to walk with those that are really just for runway shows) : this is actually a very walkable heel heights and it’s a very comfortable type of shoe. This could be a shoe for the everyday life and that’s what I like most : to create something that is special, comfortable and wearable. To develop nice shoes, but with purpose. »
A.J.: Thus, in order to go mainstream, might retail be the next step? As a result, are you considering opening a store in Paris soon? Do you appreciate this side of business?
Rem : « For the moment, we have a corner in Galeries Lafayette. Sometimes I’m considering it but I’m waiting for the costs to come down a little bit. We have stores in many international cities (London, New York, Amsterdam and soon Los Angeles), however, I’m waiting for the Parisian rent prices to come down. I’m actually confident they will because e-commerce is taking over in many industries and the impact of tourism on the economy is diminishing. To be honest, it’s not my favorite thing to be a retailer, it’s a different thing compared to being a designer. I personally prefer being a designer because retail gives a lot of headache. But I do like to do events or, situations like when we did the Zaha Hadid shoe lounge at L’Éclaireur, I appreciated being in somebody else’s environment as well. »
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Post written by Allan Joseph, Co-founder, Branding Strategist & Menswear Editor
After graduating from Toulouse Business School in 2012 and having multiple experiences as a Freelancer during 3 years, Allan works currently as a Strategist for Be Angels Agency. Specialized in Luxury marketing & advertising, he collaborated to the notorious book « La Génération Y et le Luxe » and joined Clausette Magazine in December 2015.