From fashion, beauty, lifestyle to even the realms of culture, brands teaming up with one another has progressed to becoming the new cool. Whether it’s a collaboration that you never saw coming or a partnership you anticipated before its inception, the blending in of two distinct institutions is anything but dull. Bringing you one such atypical association is German footwear brand Birkenstock and its education project with Central Saint Martins, a fashion school in London.
Manifesting Birkenstock’s commitment to education, this collaboration encompasses research and design in all its seniority. Back in 2018, the global heritage brand commissioned graduates of the BA Fashion History and Theory course at CSM to research and enhance the prolific archive of Birkenstock. With open access to the brand’s archives in the US, Italy, Japan and the Birkenstock Headquarters in Germany, the graduates partook in research trips and immersed themselves completely in the brand’s culture and legacy spanning over 250 years. The result of this translated into a second project with the MA Fashion course, wherein the students were invited to reimagine designs and eventually shape the future of the brand.
After a year of product development, four out of ten finalists qualified for serial production. With avant-garde representations and the student’s name embossed on the fabled Birkenstock footbed, the collection is now set for launch and purchase in select stores worldwide and also the brand’s official website.
Here’s what the four creators had to say about this exciting launch:
“For me, flamboyance is defiance. I was intrigued to learn that Birkenstock was the first to ever put shape into the in-sole of shoes. Earlier all shoes were completely flat inside—so I was surprised how monumental the footbed and Birkenstock are in the history of fashion as a whole. The inspiration behind the sandals comes from my background, having grown up in a family of artists (painters, sculptors and designers). I decided to honour that by looking into the world of sculptures, specifically Brancusi.”
“I think fashion has the responsibility to challenge ideas of gender in some ways. Otherwise, nothing would move forward. Menswear needs playfulness, and I like to think I can bring that. It’s about a balance of humour and seriousness. For me, it’s not just about providing a product; it’s about encouraging men to dream—there’s an element of escapism there. The Moto Sandal is a turbulent twist on Birkenstock’s orthopaedic history. It represents the colliding the idea of a supportive shin brace with protective motocross gear.”
“Fashion has the ability to satisfy so many niches and subcultures. There’s always something for everyone to express their own individual style. The concept of wearing duvets on our feet is a simple yet versatile design that can be worn without thinking. (My inspiration for the design was) a theoretical bond of sustainable ideas on long term comfort, materials and functionality.”
“I aim to disarm prejudice with my design practice. Without opening our mouths to say anything, fashion can already speak visually for us. What we choose to wear, depending on the look, materiality and combination of garments, can be intended as activism and be defiant. (My design) celebrates the heritage and comfort of the iconic Birkenstock latex and cork footbed. The natural shape and function of a footprint are recreated as a cushioned upper. It reveals the effortless beauty of the space left behind from a footprint in the sand.”
The entire collection will be backed and supported by a campaign by Walter Pfeiffer in Paris.
When are you getting your own pair?