In the future, your shoes may arrive flat, in an envelope, ready for you to fold them into existence, reports Nina Strochlic in The Daily Beast (9/20/13). You will "take out a piece of pliable, biodegradable material, cut along the pattern lines, fold it into a shoe and slip it on your foot … The concept is simple: it’s a one-piece, one-material, printable shoe design, which, when cut out from a pliable material, folds like origami into a sturdy-looking sandal or closed-toe flat.” Horatio Yuxin Han hopes to turn this concept into an enterprise, UNifold, and "revolutionize footwear."
Horatio’s project began as a class assignment at Pratt Institute, given by a visiting assistant professor, Kevin Crowley, after the department chair told him to "design shoes the way you think they should be designed." So, he told his class about "the concept of one-piece, printable footwear cut from foam material made of reclaimed bottles that can be recycled once the shoe wears out." Kevin had been interested in the idea since the 1970s, when he was at Converse, and recognized the inefficiencies of the modern footwear industry.
"Look at the Roman sandal," he says. "They walked all over Europe and they wore sandals." Horatio now hopes to run with that idea, perhaps providing "a cheap and easy way for hundreds of millions of people without shoes to put something on their feet … on top of the environmental considerations and enormous cost-efficiency the single-material design offers." At the very least, low production costs could bring footwear manufacture back to America, or connect "shoe designers around the world." For now, Horatio is still just an intern at New Balance, and, says Kevin, the idea is "a long way from production."