Shaun Ross

For the launch of its collaboration with Shaun Ross, United Nude set up a highly minimalist pop-up shop Monday at 198 Allen Street.

Pedestrians passing by the garage-like open storefront could see all four unisex styles. Ross, who is launching a singing career, was expected to perform at Monday night’s launch party. “He is a very interesting character. He has a lot of energy and a lot of ideas. I wouldn’t have done a high-heeled shoe for men, if it wasn’t for Shaun coming to us,” said United Nude founder Rem D Koolhaas, adding that he told Ross upfront that he needed to be all-in.

From Koolhaas’ perspective “the best collaborations start when people approach us.” Having collaborated with Iris van Herpen for 10 seasons and Issey Miyake numerous times, Koolhaas said United Nude will team with the latter again for his next collection in Paris. Talks are under way with pop artists. “The fashion collaborations get less attention than the pop culture collaborations. The same thinking goes for Kanye West getting more attention for Adidas than Stella McCartney,” Koolhaas said. “Or even Yamamoto for Adidas. Pop culture has the heavy social [media] reach and more hype. If Kanye says, ‘Everybody go left.’ Everybody goes left. If Kanye says, ‘Go right.’ Everybody goes right.”

He continued, “I wish it was a little bit different. I’m a designer and I like to work with designers. I like to work with anybody who is creative and has ideas obviously, but I can see the benefit of brands to work with anybody who has a larger reach or a larger voice. Or they use that voice in a different way. Shaun does that everyday talking to his followers. He has his own voice. Whereas Iris van Herpen doesn’t [literally] speak to her followers — she just makes beautiful stuff.”

To help spread the word about the two versions of boots, United Nude relied on Ross’ discretion to gift 30 celebrities, musicians and artists. For the first run, there are 400 units to be sold with Diplo being among the first to request a pair. Each pair of the Shaun Ross United Nude ankle boots is numbered on a tiny metal detail on the sculpted stacked heel. Retail prices start at $475 to try to keep the price points in reach. “Our motto is, ‘Exclusive by design, not by price,’” Koolhaas said. The fact that much of the Lower East Side still feels like New York with its smaller stores was a plus for the founder. New additions like the Public hotel also appealed to him, as well as the pop-up’s proximity to NoLIta, which was a favorite neighborhood to hang out in back in the day.

Debating between a launch in Los Angeles or New York, Koolhaas said he and Ross agreed New York would be better since it is more international and would coincide with fashion week. Only in Manhattan for two nights, Koolhaas said, “Fashion week is always a good time to launch product. It’s something new and exciting that is fashion-related. There are a lot of people here, who we would like to see this.”

As a sign of Koolhaas’ dexterity, a futuristic car that he created is now on view in the “Disruptors” show with industrial designer Joey Ruiter at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles until March 1. His United Nude portfolio also includes work with Zaha Hadid and Lady Gaga, among others. The direct-to-consumer is now based in Los Angeles where Koolhaas moved with his wife and two children from Asia about two and a half years ago.

Koolhaas’ wife, Ferrari, is also in the design field, having started to test her own yoga line, Magic Jian, just last month. Wearing a silver metallic pleated skirt and a black tank with a circular leather accent from her new label and United Nude’s best-selling Delta Run stacked sandals, she said the label is available online, via Instagram and Facebook. The collection is also sometimes offered in the local farmers’ market near their California. “I love to buy things that are organic,” she said. “It’s really about a pure lifestyle instead of your product.”

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