New Heights: Combining Math and Fashion

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It is indisputable that fashion designers are some of the greatest, most accessible artists of our time. However, many do not appreciate the significant intersection between fashion and architecture apparent across the design world. A genius like Oscar de la Renta utilizes precise mathematical methods in order to compose his iconic gowns, and guarantee that they fit the body in a complimentary way. Footwear designers employ similar approaches to create their shoes and establish certain characteristics that set them apart. High heels have always been an integral part of fashion, but in recent years, it seems they have taken over.
 
With popularity and sales rising, it is also important to note that the heels themselves are rising too. Looking at red carpet photos from an awards show about ten years ago, the average heel is remarkably lower than it is now. Manolo Blahniks, thanks in part to a 30-minute weekly advertisement we fondly know as Sex and the City, became the definitive example of luxury women’s footwear. While there is no shortage of towering stilettos throughout their collections, their heels seem modest in comparison to what we see these days. Christian Louboutin, French shoe designer, seems to defy gravity and reason with his unbelievable designs that are most popularly worn in varieties that range from four to over six inches. Always featuring their trademark red soles, a pair of Louboutins is a fashion must for many women. Mr. Louboutin clearly has a unique understanding of the foot. He knows exactly which angles to place an arch in order to create an illusion of elongation of the leg, not to mention make an outfit.
 
Due to the sleek, sexy craftsmanship of these shoes, it is no surprise how popular they are. It is also no surprise how expensive they are. Of course, keeping consistent with the life cycle of fashion, tons of knockoffs flood the market. While many designers have made careers for themselves imitating the sky-high platforms and shapes that Blahnik and Louboutin have revolutionized for this century, some have opted to stray from the trends. An example of this is United Nude, brainchild of a Dutch architect Rem D Koolhaas and British shoemaker Galahad Clark. United Nude’s designs straddle an intersection between fashion and architecture, and the results are aesthetically stunning, not to mention more comfortable.
 
I had seen a few pairs of United Nude shoes on red carpets before taking a look at their flagship store in New York this past week. They feature interesting geometric shapes that one would not expect to see on a high heel, however the most unique aspect of their pieces is the way the shoe is connected. Instead of providing a flat base that directly attaches to a heel, the structure of the United Nude shoes are unlike anything I have seen. There are zig-zags, small spikes attached to wood, and a plethora of other abstract designs. These shoes sometimes look like they would fit in more with a sculpture garden than a rack of designer shoes.
 
Their first men’s collection has also just launched, and it did not disappoint. The designs combine classical men’s shoes, with original aspects, like hollowed carbon fiber heels. Some of the more comfortable men’s shoes feature uniquely shaped elastic pieces, in a variety of fantastic colors. I actually scooped up a pair of rainbow shoes myself. They feature subtle, light colors, and can be worn with shorts and a t-shirt, or dress pants and a sweater. You can check out their website (www.unitednude.com) for all of their collections.
 
In a crowded shoe market, I am always thrilled to see something different, that mixes the elegant, tried and true style of classic footwear designers with the precision and originality of top architects. The high heel is certainly here to stay. Appropriate for a casual night out, a red carpet, or a day at the office, there is no shoe that has made more of an impact and defined women’s fashion. I am sure within the next few years, we will see an increased amount of architecturally influenced shoes that could serve as fine art in a museum, as well as pound the pavement.

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