Fresh off its appearance on the Rick Owens runway at Paris Fashion Week, Birkenstock has another reason to celebrate.
The Germany-based footwear brand will open its first U.S. owned retail store on Monday, Oct. 1, in New York’s Soho neighborhood. The flagship will be located at 120 Spring St., in a space that spans two floors and will showcase the entire range of Birkenstock products, from its sandals, clogs and boots to bags, belts, socks and even skincare.
David Kahan, CEO of Birkenstock Americas, noted that the company has operated in the States since 1967, but worked with wholesale partners, including major department stores and mom-and-pop boutiques. “We have great relationships with some of the best retailers in the country, but they can only show so much of the product,” he said. “This is a way for us to create a showplace for our brand.”
He said Birkenstock spent two years searching for the right location for the shop, and ultimately chose Soho for its diverse character. “You can’t do better than the energy of Soho — it’s one of the only spots where you have the best luxury and athletic stores and an Apple store, plus an artistic and trendy crowd, with a mix of tourists and locals,” said Kahan.
The store’s look was created by TPG Architecture, which has developed retail spaces for a number of fashion players such as Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo and Jimmy Choo. The design takes direct inspiration from Birkenstock’s core footwear products, incorporating natural materials such as cork, leather and and felt into the decor. “Everything that Birkenstock stands for — from fine craftsmanship to comfort — is incorporated into the feel of the space,” said Kahan.
For the store’s opening, Birkenstock has collaborated with New York artist Amit Greenberg on a multimedia campaign that will on billboards and social media. The ads feature a cast of original cartoon characters that will also appear on a limited-edition version of the brand’s Arizona sandal and an exclusive T-shirt. Both items will be available only in the Soho location and online, priced at $200 for the sandal) and $40 for the tee.
Kahan pointed out that the Soho boutique offers Birkenstock an opportunity to highlight its designer collaborations with high-energy launches, not unlike the ones seen at other area hotspots like Nike and Supreme. And it’s giving extra attention to its collabs in a lounge space on the store’s second floor. “If it’s something really hard to find, you may be able to find it in our store,” said the CEO. “That drives excitement and foot traffic.”
Birkenstock’s ongoing partnership with Rick Owens has helped catapult the brand into the high-fashion stratosphere, and its collabs last year with 10 Corso Como and Barneys New York remain in-demand items.
The Soho opening brings Birkenstock’s global store count to 47, and Kahan said the brand could potentially open five to 10 more doors in the U.S. “In the next six months, we will have another location probably on the West Coast — in an area with the same type of vibe as Soho,” he said. “But we’re going to take it very slowly; we’re not putting a timeline on it. Odds are if we open a store it’s because we don’t have adequate distribution there or it connects us to a neighborhood that no multibrand retailer can do.”
Overall, he said, the brand’s retail strategy is driven by a sense of responsibility to customers. “When you have a brand like this that consumers love, it’s inherent upon on you to have some sort of environment where they can come in and experience the brand on an emotional level,” said Kahan.