Under the Radar is Highsnobiety's interview series that hones in on young designers and emerging brands to give next-gen talent the platform it deserves.

Atypical of today’s running brands, Stockholm-based running label UNNA doesn’t care about finishing first place. In fact, it doesn’t care about performance at all. Instead, UNNA prides itself on actively encouraging its wearers to finish in a good place mentally.

It all starts with UNNA’s seasonal running collections, which comprise everything from tees and half-tights to vests and jackets. Functional in their craft, the offerings also carry a reminder to enjoy the process in their design. 

Take UNNA’s Smiles Club Tee, for instance, which, as the name suggests, is a wearable memo to smile. Or even its organic running socks, which reads “Good Place” branding on the rear.

Founded in 2020 by John-Ruben Holtback, the designer behind now-defunct 2018 Woolmark Prize-winning label L’HOMME ROUGE, UNNA is pioneering a new era for “anti-performance” running brands that focuses more on the journey as opposed to the final destination.

Because for UNNA, it isn’t about winning.


Highsnobiety: Let’s start from the beginning. How and why did UNNA come about?

John-Ruben Holtback: UNNA is a very personal project. I’ve combined two parts of my life that I feel very passionate about: on one hand, I’ve always been fortunate to work within design and fashion. On the other hand, I have developed a passion for movement and exercise.

I had a health scare in 2014 where I was hospitalized and had to undergo surgery. Two weeks later, I was back in the hospital, not feeling well. During this period, I was never given a proper diagnosis, so I understood that I had to take care of my own well-being. I tried a lot of things, but running really stood out. Everything fell into place, and I started sleeping well. I also saw that my friends were having similar issues with stress and mental health. 

Running is miraculous—the peace of mind it brings and the synergy of body and mind is genuinely the real deal.

What’s the inspiration behind it?

I wanted to create something more than a sportswear or fashion brand, but something with a strong voice, like a complete new world. [UNNA is] a place for people to meet with similar ideals and interests as myself. I wanted [UNNA] to be something cool and fun.

Tell us a little about your backgrounds.

I’m a former founder of a brand called L’HOMME ROUGE, a progressive and pretty successful menswear label. To be honest though, we were all exhausted. It didn’t feel sustainable, both creatively and environmentally, to keep producing so many collections. Everything was moving too fast and there was never a break or enough time to stop and reflect.

We decided to take a break, but during that period we each found ourselves moving in different directions. For me, the idea of UNNA felt more interesting and purposeful, so that’s the path I chose to follow.


Where does UNNA fit into the current fashion landscape (if at all)? 

I’m actually not too much into fashion these days, and if I do look at something it’s probably old collections from heroes like Martin Margiela, Helmut Lang, and Raf Simons or I listen to idealists like Rick Owens and [Yohji] Yamamoto. These people are more like inspiring artists to me, they feel above today’s fashion landscape.

I mean, what even is fashion? The lines feel so blurry. Fashion, for me, doesn’t feel relevant without the heroes. I’m more interested in longevity, storytelling, and visual communication, and in seeing how things come together to create the full experience.

Today, [fashion is] mostly the big companies trying to make the most money out of creativity, and I don’t enjoy that from a creative standpoint. I’m all about great product and curation, and building a brand culture. Financial success is, of course, extremely important, but it’s sad to see it become the primary goal for most brands these days.

What’s the eventual goal with UNNA?

Our vision is to inspire more people to run and feel better about themselves. Of course, some of our customers are ultra-marathon runners with a similar mindset, but I really try to cater to those who are not moving and exercising.

Don’t expect UNNA to give you the best tips on how to push yourself with hard interval training. We would rather do as much as we can to lower the bar for movement, to make it available to everyone. The next step will be to start building the brand outside of Stockholm.

Anything else you’d like to add?

There’s a lot of greenwashing out there, and I just want to say that there’s no such thing as a sustainable fashion brand. We cannot control the lifecycle of the product we put out there, but it’s our responsibility to create high-quality products that can have a longer lifespan. When we create new products, we need to make sure we’re leaving a minimal footprint.

We Recommend
  • Under the Radar: Purple Mountain Observatory
    • Style
  • Under the Radar: Prototypes
    • Style
  • Elevate Your Scent Game: Under-the-Radar Fragrances for the Perfume Connoisseur
    • Beauty
  • It's Prada Everything for Gunna & Offset's New Video (The Store Included)
    • Style
  • Luxury Brands That Probably Aren't On Your Radar (But Should Be)
    • Style
What To Read Next
  • It's Bottega Everything for A$AP Rocky (Even for Graduations)
    • Style
  • New Balance's Revived Dad Shoe Is Ready to Light Up the Streets
    • Sneakers
  • BMW's First-Ever Couture Car Is a Literal Supermodel
    • Culture
  • Nike Dug Up an Insane ‘00s Sneaker-Clog for a Revival
    • Sneakers
  • Hello, Paris Olympics Jordans. Have We Met Before?
    • Sneakers
  • Vans' New Sneaker Is a Beautiful Slip-on Skate Shoe Hybrid
    • Sneakers
*If you submitted your e-mail address and placed an order, we may use your e-mail address to inform you regularly about similar products without prior explicit consent. You can object to the use of your e-mail address for this purpose at any time without incurring any costs other than the transmission costs according to the basic tariffs. Each newsletter contains an unsubscribe link. Alternatively, you can object to receiving the newsletter at any time by sending an e-mail to info@highsnobiety.com

Web Accessibility Statement

Titel Media GmbH (Highsnobiety), is committed to facilitating and improving the accessibility and usability of its Website, www.highsnobiety.com. Titel Media GmbH strives to ensure that its Website services and content are accessible to persons with disabilities including users of screen reader technology. To accomplish this, Titel Media GmbH tests, remediates and maintains the Website in-line with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which also bring the Website into conformance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.


Please be aware that our efforts to maintain accessibility and usability are ongoing. While we strive to make the Website as accessible as possible some issues can be encountered by different assistive technology as the range of assistive technology is wide and varied.

Contact Us

If, at any time, you have specific questions or concerns about the accessibility of any particular webpage on this Website, please contact us at accessibility@highsnobiety.com, +49 (0)30 235 908 500. If you do encounter an accessibility issue, please be sure to specify the web page and nature of the issue in your email and/or phone call, and we will make all reasonable efforts to make that page or the information contained therein accessible for you.