After LVMH acquired a majority stake in Birkenstock, you’d be forgiven for thinking the brand had its sights set solely on international expansion. But the family-run business, which was founded by cobbler Johann Adam Birkenstock in 1774, is keeping one toe in the creativity pool that has previously proffered successful collaborations with Valentino and Proenza Schouler.
The dad sandal label, which has soared in popularity over the course of the pandemic, enlisted Central Saint Martins students to enrich its image archive and to put their stamp on Birkenstock classics. Four of the standout designs, which adopted a sky-is-the-limit sensibility, have been put into production.
“Birkenstocks have become the official home-office shoe,” asserts CSM designer Alex Wolfe. “My design has all the comfort of your traditional sandals, but with a bit more ‘get up and go’ than ‘stay at home’—an energy I fully support moving into 2021.”
Here, Wolfe, Alecsander Rothschild, Saskia Lenaerts and Dingyun Zhang tell Vogue what inspired their reimagined Birkenstock sandals, which are available to buy at 1774.com.
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“Inspired by Birkenstock’s orthopaedic history, I researched foot protection, medical braces and guards. I titled my project ‘Break – A – Leg”, colliding and crossing over shapes, details and colours from the worlds of motocross and extreme sports. My design features a removable upper shield with snaps and a padded technical mesh insert, leather binding straps and a super-grip rubber sole reminiscent of tyre treads. The Moto Sandal poses a duality of something playful and something serious, which are common themes that I like to express in my work.”
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“I wanted to create a cushioned upper to go hand in hand with the footbed and to celebrate Birkenstock’s heritage. The imprint is a reference to our ecological footprint, asking us to consider our impact, while showcasing Birkenstock as a brand that has continued to produce all parts of its shoes in Germany and sourced all of its materials in Europe. This design is a celebration of the natural beauty and the form that I believe Birkenstock has built its functionality and success upon.”
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“Using the concept of wearing a duvet on our feet, I tried to design something simple, yet comfortable: the essence of Birkenstock, but presented in my own way. My version of the Arizona uses the existing comfort of the footbed, with a contemporary silhouette that echoes my oversized puffer aesthetic.”
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“I wanted to treat the Birkenstock sandal as more of an object of desire, so I looked at sculptures, specifically by Brâncuși, to develop a modernist shape. My version of the classic Birkenstock is for a person who wants a more flamboyant sandal, with the same function as the classic Arizona, but with the kind of desire a Brâncuși sculpture would invoke in a museum.”
This article was originally published on British Vogue