Birkenstock sandal redesigned by Central Saint Martins students
Birkenstock takes a 2021 Wallpaper* Design Award in its stride
Comfort-lovers confined to their homes around the world last year sought solace in the mouldable footbed of Birkenstock’s ergonomic sandals, making its double-strap ‘Arizona’ styles some of the most shopped items of 2020. Now the brand, beloved of both high fashion ‘ugly’ shoe fans and health-food devotees, has added more options for the lover of the open-toed – a reissued version of its woven leather 1990s ‘Tallahassee’ style, and a series of daring new designs.
The ‘Tallahassee’ sandal was chosen as part of an education project with Central Saint Martins’ BA Fashion History & Theory and MA Fashion courses, focused on research and design, which also saw four master’s students create brand-new Birkenstock designs. As part of the project, students visited the brand’s archives in Germany, Japan and the US for inspiration. ‘We laid out endless samples and catalogues,’ says Central Saint Martins MA Fashion course director Fabio Piras. For a candidate for reissue, he adds, ‘we were looking to find a historical style that had a sense of contemporaneity.’ The students came up with the reissued sandal’s fresh colour options.
‘Investing in education will always be investing in the future. It’s the talents of the Central Saint Martins’ courses that have led the way’ – Birkenstock CEO Oliver Reichert
A core aim of the course was to situate Birkenstock in the global fashion conversation. Its 1774 collection, which sees classic styles reimagined by luxury brands such as Rick Owens, Valentino and Proenza Schouler, has cemented its high-fashion status. ‘We were keen to educate the brand around this discourse that surrounds it,’ says BA Fashion History & Theory course director Alistair O’Neill of the impetus behind the archive trip, which also saw students create a database of Birkenstock’s global fashion editorials.
For the reissue and design projects, emphasis on Birkenstock’s famed footbed was paramount. ‘The brand was able to democratically implement the concept of a welded sole into an orthopaedic shoe,’ says O’Neill. ‘It’s a marvel of the 20th century.’ The project also sees the launch of four original silhouettes, created by MA students Alex Wolfe, Saskia Lenaerts, Alecsander Rothschild and Ding Yun Zhang, which in their padded, armour-like and ankle-strap focused details are forward-thinking.
The brand’s collaboration with a fashion school is something of an innovation, too. Says Birkenstock CEO Oliver Reichert, ‘Investing in education will always be investing in the future. It’s the talents of the Central Saint Martins’ courses that have led the way.’ §