Muted, minimal, understated – Unseen Footwear boasts no obvious branding bar an embossment on the tongue and heel mark, conveying a “reaction against the brand driven logo mania” of the contemporary landscape. For their Creative Director David Cullen, style is classic, with Unseen driven to strike a balance between heritage and modernity. Chronicling the label’s birth on the offshore island of Jersey to its growing international reputation, SEVENSTORE delves into Cullen’s world to learn more about the label’s affinity with craft footwear.

Cullen’s parents emigrated from Glasgow to Jersey in the 1970s, where an adolescence spent on the island’s coastline led him to see beyond its tourist reputation. ‘Normally when I meet people they go, ‘ah, my Gran used to go to Jersey...’ but it’s very cosmopolitan,’ he stresses, where its non-EU status has swiftly avoided any implications of Brexit. A Channel Islands native, university eventually took David to Glasgow, where a career in buying spawned a gradual frustration - Suitable footwear that satisfied consumer, the company and quality, was lacking. In his own experience, the “continuous increase in price” in the current market “didn’t justify the product,” subsequently leading to the brands inception in the Summer of 2019. Born out of a “love for well-made product, with simple and clean design,” which, Cullen admits, “the Italians do extremely well,” the Mediterranean joie de vivre eventually became the perfect proving ground for the label’s fruition.

Located in the Eastern Italian coastal town of Civitanova, Unseen’s finishing factory is also home to luxury leaders TODS, Prada and The Kering Group, with each shoe component sourced within a fifteen-mile radius of its manufacture. Despite Cullen being the masthead of the label, there is an inherent sense of keeping consumer and craftsman at the crux of the conversation. “Our two Italian agents Vito and Raf and I toured Civitanova, visited sole and fabric suppliers and met with the factory owner and his family,” he explains, with a “personal approach being important” to the company’s manufacturing process. Bolstered by a setting rich in footwear production, the 4th generation factory and in-house design team work in synergy, creating product for the everyday that aims to stand the test of time. Hand laced, handmade, hand packaged – Like its namesake, Unseen Footwear operates with a humble modesty, wishing to retain an ethos founded on traditional craft, to champion minimalism in a sea of oversaturation.

Rooted in unwavering technicality, plush suede, rich leather and durable cotton bodies are supported on a Vibram sole spine; Where there is comfort, there is classicism, offering considered footwear for the discerning customer. Aiming to overlook the “shock factor,” Unseen also wishes to answer many of the industry’s most pressing questions, addressing the environmental impact of production and distribution within wider manufacturing standards. For Cullen, “good quality is the highest form of sustainability,” where alongside the development of permanent styles, the desire to innovate is ever-present. Experimenting with materiality has led to the birth of their first “100% sustainable sneaker,” comprising of cork-hemp soles and recycled linings - Considering the planet hasn’t been compromised in bringing premium product to market.
Despite Italian production being integral to the label, the heart of Unseen beats from the Jersey coast. Situated North-Westerly of the French border, the reputation of the five by nine-mile island is arguably steeped in tourism more so than fashion, that has in hindsight, proved somewhat of a challenge in the post-pandemic climate. Home to a mere 100,000 residents, the location “certainly makes things more complicated... I was initially planning to be based in London,” Cullen explains, but the forced changes have “been a blessing in disguise,” where the island’s famed landscape has been a malleable canvas for campaign locations, and is home to a small, close knit team. Of which, David can individually name, each responsible for the daily running of the quickly expanding company.

When design’s past is reinvented for the present day, what can be said for the future of Unseen Footwear? Simply put, “to see the brand in the best stores in the best places around the world,” he tells us. The development of an existing women’s collection and brand partnerships aim to amplify the brand’s cut-through-the-noise spirit, bound by the seas of Italy and the shores of the Channel Islands - Local sourcing, with an international perspective.
The latest collection of Unseen footwear is available in-store and online now.