An exhibition of world-famous shoes is currently on display at The Dubai Mall

From Lady Gaga's gravity-defying boots to Zaha Hadid's gait-inspired heels, here are some funky footwear designs to view at the United Nude exhibition in Dubai

UN x Collaborations is on display at The Dubai Mall's Fashion Avenue. The National
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It was heartbreak that led Rem D Koolhaas to shoes. In an attempt to win back the ­affections of a sweetheart, the architect used his design ­prowess to create what might be the most romantic gesture in the history of footwear.

At first glance, his design looks unusual – a hollowed, minimalist heel in simple black leather – but when these two mules are placed heel to heel, they mimic the shape of a heart. When separated, they are broken.

Whether or not this gesture brought his beloved back ­remains a mystery, but what became clear is that Koolhaas was on to something, and thus United Nude was born in 2003. While architecture and shoe design may not be an obvious pairing, Koolhaas's knowledge of structure, physics and high-rises has helped to create some of the most ­boundary-pushing, gravity-­defying footwear of our time.

"We ended up breaking the rules of the shoes, not for the sake of breaking them, but simply by not knowing them," Koolhaas once famously said. The shoes soon received international attention, from the celebrities who wanted to wear them as well as the creatives who wanted to help design them. The result is a number of high-profile collaborations, which are on display as part of The Dubai Mall's Art+ initiative in the Fashion Avenue this week, a short distance away from the United Nude store.

“United Nude has many famous collaborations with designers from Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East,” says Ece Deveci, United Nude’s GCC brand manager. “We decided to choose the most famous collaborations for this exhibition, and the most relevant to our customers in this region.”

From one of the many projects done in partnership with the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid and designers Issey Miyake and Iris van Herpen, to a mind-bending boot created for Lady Gaga, this makeshift ­museum is a shoe lover’s Louvre. Here are the stories behind the shoes.

Iris van Herpen X United Nude

This design is nicknamed the 'shoe horse'. The National 

Nicknamed the Shoe Horse, this was the ninth collaboration between United Nude and Dutch designer Iris van Herpen, with the concept breaking away from ­traditional heel shapes and designing more ­animalistic styles. The ­Biopiracy ­Bootie, is created with smooth, round lines and golden leather ­detailing on the front and back, adding ­three-dimensional characteristics. The construction is so complicated and precise that each pair is 100 per cent handmade with the highest grade Italian kid leather. It retails for approximately US$1,000 (Dh3,673).

Lady Gaga’s Fame shoes

Lady Gaga's 12-inch heeled boots created for her Fame launch. The National 

The songstress is known for her gravity-defying shoes, so this was a natural collaboration for United Nude, and one of its most famous. The company was invited to make a pair of shoes for Gaga's new Fame perfume launch. She wanted the shoes to be as high as possible, so that's what she got – a little over 30 centimetres. The concept was inspired by Gaga's own Fame campaign, in which she featured as a giant with people climbing over her. The same theme was followed for these black calf-length boots, with gold men mounting the impressive structure.

This design is limited edition, with just three pairs created – one for Gaga, and the other two, including the one displayed in Dubai, in United Nude's possession.

Nova shoes by Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid's Nova shoe for United Nude. Courtesy: Dubai Mall

The collaboration between two architects, the Nova shoe has Hadid's stamp all over it. This limited-edition shoe was one of many ­collaborations between Koolhaus and the Queen of Curves. The Nova design incorporates ­intricate striations juxtaposed with dramatic realignments, which are meant to establish the relationship between the primary structure of a shoe and the dynamic force applied by each step the wearer takes. Comfortable? No, but the draw of this shoe is it mimics Hadid's world-famous designs.

The Rock Shoes by Issey Miyake x United Nude

The Rock shoe, a collaboration between Issey Miyake and United Nude. The National

Japanese fashion ­designer Issey Miyake has created two ­collections with United Nude, but The Rock is the star of the show. Based on the concept of structure, these shoes are characterised by their ­dynamic, structured heels, that look as if they were hewn from a rock. The design is also a play on the abstract-looking traditional wooden Geta sandals from Japan.

Möbius: the original

United Nude's Möbius shoe, the design which helped launch the brand. The National 

Remember those broken-­heart shoes? Well, this is where it all began. Möbius is the original launch product that revolutionised the traditional notion of heel construction, and it has become celebrated in the world of design. The concept for the shoe was created by transforming the frame of Germam architect Mies van der Rohe's ­Barcelona chair into a single band, ­uniting the upper, sole, foot-bed and heel into one ­infinite piece. It was this romantic shoe that launched United Nude, and to this day remains at the heart of the brand.

The United Nude x Collaboration Shoes exhibition is on until January 14. United Nude’s flagship store in located on Level 1 at Fashion Avenue, The Dubai Mall.  


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