UNKNOWN ARTICLES: The Self-taught Canadian Duo Behind the Only Pair of Boots You’ll Ever Need
With a nod to both the punk scene of the 1960’s and contemporary metropolitan nightlife, UNKNOWN ARTICLES has one foot planted firmly in the moment, and the other in an abiding sense of nostalgia. The luxury boot brand is the brainchild of Cameron James and David Brown, two 24-year-old self-taught designers based in Toronto.
The pair grew up together, having both been a part of the same tight-knit friend group in high school. Their brand is an ode to their days in Catholic school, where uniforms were mandatory and self-expression was a form of rebellion. Both James and Brown took pleasure in expressing themselves through subtle tweaks to their school uniforms. That same desire for individuality is at UNKNOWN ARTICLES’ core — no two pairs are alike, a particularly rare thing to find in the knock-off-flooded, logo-obsessed fashion landscape we’re in today.
DIY Design Education
Having no previous design experience, James and Brown looked to the leather boots that were staples in each of their wardrobes for inspiration as a starting point. “We were both interested in footwear, so it made sense to get together and start UNKNOWN ARTICLES,” says Brown. “We pushed each other to actually go through with starting the brand.”
They moved through the design process with aspirations to learn, adapting each prototype as they’d go. The end design is UNKNOWN ARTICLES’ signature slimmer shaft, giving each style in COLLECTION ONE a sleek look that stands alone when compared both to designer and commercial versions. The boots are handcrafted in Marche, Italy, imparting the kind of character found in an old favourite. Natural deviations in the leather make each pair entirely unique to the wearer. “It’s important to have good relationships with our makers. With open lines of communication, the outcome is exactly what we want. Because of that trust, we know all parts of the boot making process are done well.” says James.
Brown grew up playing soccer and had an unshakeable fascination with athletic footwear. His love for function-focused design and shoes combines with his lifelong pursuit of excellence to inform the luxurious essentialism that is UNKNOWN ARTICLES. “Less is always more for me, which is why I’m drawn to Hedi Slimane’s work. He does a lot while keeping it simple, and we draw from that same thinking as inspiration for UNKNOWN ARTICLES,” says David Brown. “I notice the smallest details, which translates into re-doing samples even if it’s at an extra cost. We’ll ask for a small change that has the manufacturers saying ‘Are you serious?’ and we give them the go-ahead, because it’s worth it to us even if it’s a 2-5% improvement.”
James is most inspired by artists who’ve managed to capture an era in a way that defines it. “Julia Gorton’s photography work about the No Wave scene, Franco Vaccari’s iconic photographs from the 1970’s and Wim Wenders desaturated cinematic flashbacks to an era’s past all inform the effortless edge and honesty that defines UNKNOWN ARTICLES,” says James.
Beyond this, the designers found a deep connection with their core group of friends through a mutual draw to disaffected youth culture and love for some of the darker, grunge-resurgence trends happening in the music scene at the time. “Authenticity is big. Our starting point has always been designing for us, thinking about stuff that we would wear, and what kind of experience we want,” says James. That same mentality informs UNKNOWN ARTICLES’ approach to the customer experience: “As a consumer, I’ve gotten good and bad help — being hands-on means we put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and strive to make something we are proud to wear ourselves,” adds James.
UNKNOWN ARTICLES’ main ingredient is authenticity. When something is authentic, it doesn’t need to be replaced. From smoky bars to art galleries, a music festival or the office, UNKNOWN ARTICLES marries quality with versatility, making boots that suit the contemporary renegade through all walks of life, for a lifetime.
UNKNOWN ARTICLES is a Matte PR client.