We were always going to be drawn to a name like United Nude so we just had to shuffle into the shop on Bermondsey Street the first time we saw it. Quite an unassuming shop front hides a small but unique offering of footwear that sets out to be a little different from whatever overpriced design currently dangles from your feet. There is something subtly different about the designs themselves but it's only when you start chatting to the friendly staff that you realise just how radically different.
Take the wall of Vivo branded shoes. At first glance they seem to have a slighter wider toe and what the hell is going on with the zippable sole? Thankfully each product comes with its very own little red instruction book that also gives you some history of the company. The concept behind the line is to reintroduce the idea of walking barefoot, but without any of the dangers.
Walking barefoot in London?
We were skeptical at first too, but then received a pair as a Christmas present. In our eagerness to try them out we didn't even see the optional insoles tucked away in the box and for the first few days we CURSED these shoes and refused to ever wear them again. Then after finding the insoles we sheepishly gave them another go and what we had read in the packaging suddenly made sense. And more importantly these shoes were suddenly fun.
(Carry on reading for more cool shoes and a party invite!)
Granted they take a little getting used to and it's unnerving to feel cracked pavements and broken glass under your feet from time to time, but the trick of not crippling their customers is found in the Kevlar sole. Yes, we said Kevlar - the same stuff that they make bullet proof vests out of. Five times stronger than its equal weight in steel means that whatever the state of the rest of your outfit your feet at least are armoured. This means you can feel, probably for the first time, just what the city feels like under your feet without having to pick bits of it out afterwards.
Enough of the techno babble - this is a shoe not a Tom Clancy endorsed computer game - but it's got to appeal to the nerd in you. And then there's the zip. Fully waterproof and handy if you want to replace just the sole, a design feature leftover from when the shoe was still in its infancy. Designed as an aid for competition tennis player Tim Brennan whose ankle injuries simply stopped when he wore his first pair.
The wide toe allows your foot to assume its natural shape rather than be contorted at the whim of some evil designer. In fact, despite the Kevlar, the Vivo shoes are all about re-training your feet to do what they were designed to do. The bonus is that they are fun and quirky too and look quite unlike anything else currently on sale. We've been wearing a pair since December, drag our friends into the store whenever we are in SE1 and are now encouraging you guys to go and check them out. The range is carried in a few stores elsewhere but the next time you fancy a walk along the Thames pop in and try a pair out.
The walk home will be different.
But that's not all they have to offer. The Vivo shoes are available for both men and women, but what kind of shoe store would offer only one choice for the ladies? Time to check out the Mobius range. Londonist doesn't quite have the pins to give these shoes a test shuffle but they are certainly eye-catching. We'd love to hear back from any readers who have bought a pair to see how they match up to the shoes that we currently pretend to show an interest in when Mrs Londonist drags us around the shops in Covent Garden.
The last time we were on Bermondsey St (when the always cheerful Melissa kitted out a few of our friends) we noticed the weirdly obvious why-didn't we-think-of-that? Trip Clip. We felt foolish standing there with rain water soaking up our ragged jean clad legs so we pretended that we liked that feeling of creeping dampness on the tube.
And did we mention the sale with all the stock reduced to £10 and £20 a pair? We always leave the important stuff until the end. But there's more...
For the record Londonist has no ties with the shop or any of its products, but it is one of the many interesting stores that are springing up in SE1 and we'd have been failing in our duty to bring you the best in London if we didn't share our love for their footwear. However, we can let you in on a little secret by inviting you on behalf of Terra Plana/United Nude to the St Patrick's Day launch of their new collection. Free whiskey cocktails will be served with music and DJs until late and we guess they'll be offering further deals on the stock.
The place is SMALL though, so to avoid being left outside drop firstname.lastname@example.org an email and let her know that you are coming and that we sent you. If you spot anyone hoarding the whiskey, odds are it will be a Londonist.
The party begins at 6.30 pm on the 17th of March at 124 Bermondsey Street, London Bridge, SE1 3TX (opposite the Fashion & Textile Museum).
That's also the address of the shop itself if you want to pop in anytime to simply shop without all the drunkenness. American readers may be interested to know that there is also a shop in New York. That address and all other relevant detail can be found at the following web addresses:
NOTE: One unlucky reader wandered down to SE1 today to find the shop closed for refurbishment. We'd advise ringing ahead on 020 7407 3758.