Onwuad isn’t designer Rob Maniscalco’s first fashion foray merging function and style. His alpine and outdoor-wear label Templa brings a designer element to skiwear – in fact, he collaborated with Prada co-creative director Raf Simons on a collection – with garments that look good during après-ski as much as they perform on the slopes. (Maniscalco is also the founder of fashion label Claude Maus.) The launch of Onwuad, his Melbourne-based shoe brand, dovetails with the recent rise of utilitarian-style dressing.
“It’s a reflection of what’s been happening in trends of fashion over the past five years,” Maniscalco, who’s gearing up for the brand’s official launch at Milan Women’s Fashion Week in September, tells Broadsheet. “The last five years has seen the complete crashing of the worlds of outdoor streetwear and fashion. It’s been incredible, what was previously really delineated is now a soup of all those things put together. The functionality in a way drives the aesthetic, it’s become one in itself.”
But Maniscalco is no Johnny-come-lately: the brand’s signature sole and footbed involved four years of research and development in association with podiatrists and physiological specialists. The result is a stylish platform-style base for an array of designs, with an ergonomic contoured footbed to support the foot’s arch and heel, a hard-wearing tread and a “rocker”-shaped sole. They’re even water-washable.
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“I have a friend who has been overseas for the last four months, and she’s been in them the entire time,” says Maniscalco. “It’s this crossover where she can walk Manhattan from morning to night and not get tired feet, then wear that same shoe to go out at night.”
That base underpins a variety of designs, including a collaboration with Kelly Murphy of ceramics label Benna (who is also Maniscalco’s partner) inspired by the topography of the Australian landscape. The majority of the collection so far is made up of multifunctional sandals, with hidden velcro straps that are adjustable. Each shoe has been designed to slide seamlessly into most wardrobes, with black sandals, a peachy colour and other mixed block colours. Along with sandals there are chunky slides and mules, and a winter collection of slippers and moonboots is in the works. Onwuad has given Maniscalco the opportunity to get away from the churn of the fashion world, and home in on perfecting a smaller number of products.
“I was interested in committing to a more focused, specific line rather than what previously had been 150 to 200 pieces twice a year, on repeat,” he says. “This is very specific and it’s not as broad in terms of the size of collection or types of products. You can do a deep-dive into the specifics of it and get it perfected. It’s a more micro way to design.”