Birkenstock is known for collaborating with established labels like Rick Owens, Valentino and Proenza Schouler. However for spring ’21, the footwear giant is passing the mike to the footwear talent of the future.
It has tapped four British fashion students to design a limited edition capsule and the results are truly epic.
The project had its genesis in 2018 when Birkenstock commissioned BA Fashion History & Theory students from London fashion school Central Saint Martin’s to research its 250 year archive and reinterpret signature styles in a contemporary way.
In the spirit of archive research Birkenstock is also reissuing its ’90 Tallahassee sandal style with a contrast color makeover.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that it had been designed last week as opposed to some three decades ago which just goes to emphasize the timeless nature of the brand’s aesthetic.
Cut to 2019 and a big name fashion industry panel — including Mary Katrantzou, Richard Quinn and Roksanda Ilincic — alongside Birkenstock CEO Oliver Reichert and CSM’s MA Fashion course director Fabio Piras whittled down the portfolios to a shortlist of 10.
Finally following a year of product development, four of the designs were selected for production.
The resulting capsule will hit selected stores and Birkenstock’s 1774.com website in February ’21. Each of the designs will feature their creator’s name name embossed in the Birkenstock footbed.
Now check out the four winning designs and hear from the talent of tomorrow that created them and CSM course director Fabio Piras.
Inspiration: “The technology and composition of the cork and latex footbed, the foundation of the Birkenstock shoe itself. Its functionality captured my imagination because it is derived from the actual imprints of our feet and how our weight is distributed.”
The Project: “I learned how to translate a meaningful concept for commercial purposes. I was surprised how little I had to compromise on my original design and learned so much from the product developers on how to translate it for retail.”
Inspiration: “The world of sculpture, Brancusi in particular. I loved the contrasts in his work, the shape, color and the texture. This particular silhouette comes from the shape of a sculpture called ‘Mademoiselle Pogany.'”
The Project: “It was a very special experience to work with such a democratic product and to give my perspective on such a classic shoe worn by so many different types of people.”
Inspiration: “A a twist on Birkenstock’s orthopedic history. I researched medical leg braces and boots. I wanted to collide the idea of a supportive shin brace with protective motocross gear. The shoes also have an articulated upper which is removable. The subtitle for my project is ‘Break-a-leg’, (as in good luck). I like to inject some humor into my work.”
The Project: “Working with the design and production team led me to understand the balance of artistic vision and commercial realization. Each shoe undergoes such a a rigorous testing process.”
Inspiration: “Comfort. And because the most comfortable place for all of us is under our duvets, I wanted to put across the idea of wearing a duvet on your feet.”
The Project: “Working closely with the production team, I learned that effective communication really helps to turn experimental ideas into viable commercial products. Going forward,I want to extend my work into biodegradable, protective fabrics.”
How and why did CSM get involved in this program? “Birkenstock approached us with this opportunity. As educators, most of the work we do addresses our students’ creative development but it is paramount that they also learn how to respond to realistic commercial briefs and what it takes to go from idea to final product. This is significant exposure for graduates at the start of their career.
How was this partnership mutually beneficial? “It offered Birkenstock a diverse creative approach and enabled us both to challenge each other’s aesthetics and identities.”