Upbeat, chic and smiling — that’s how Kristina Blahnik comes across on a Zoom call from the US. She has a lot to smile about as the Birkenstock and Manolo Blahnik partnership is finally unveiled—a sublime union of high street and luxury, comfort and gloss, practicality, and elegance. Manolo and Kristina have always had Birkenstocks so there was a deep connection with the brand. “My uncle has had some of his Birkenstocks since the ‘70s and I have had them since I was a child. So, there’s a genuine relationship we have with the product. It was a conversation with a friend, and he was like, ‘would you be interested? and I was like it sounds like fun,” she recalls.
For an iconic brand such as Manolo Blahnik, collaborations aren’t strategic but emotional decisions, Kristina explains. “There’s no ROI we’re looking for out of it. What is more important is, do our views on the world and our values align? Birkenstock is the pioneer of comfort. It is such a legacy brand and has an incredible archive story and one of Manolo’s entire purposes and pillars is comfort. You can’t get more comfortable than in Birkenstock footwear,” she says.
Over the years, Birkenstock has never strayed from their core values and aesthetic, which is very much how Manolo Blahnik also wants to continue protecting its creative legacy. “Of course, there’s so much craft in bringing two worlds together which haven’t collided before. They’ve experienced us, we’ve experienced them—we share the technical and artisan skill sets,” she adds.
Manolo is the celebrated jeweller of the shoe world and with this collaboration, the legendary brand interprets Birkenstock accessories in the vocabulary of sparkle. “That’s how we fused our knowledge of crystals and other materials we’ve shared with them and vice versa. It was an incredible learning curve,” Kristina notes.
When Kristina finally saw the finished products from this artistic partnership arriving in specially designed trunks with white dots on them, she was ecstatic. Fuchsia pink and peacock blue are two iconic Manolo colours and Kristina plans to get a pair in blue for herself. “I’d wear those with my ancient rolled up Diesel jeans and a t-shirt and even with my bright red Alaïa dress. I’d even wear them at home with my PJs to be able to smile and sparkle at 10 o’ clock in the night. This is the beauty of Birkenstocks. There are no rules anymore. I’d even wear them with a suit,” she says.
In 2020, Manolo and Kristina were featured in the Birkenstock Spring/Summer campaign. Photographer Jack Davison lensed the pair in Manolo Blahnik’s first store on Old Church Street, London, wearing their own Birkenstocks. It marked the starting point of an even deeper collaboration—the end result of which is this delightful offering.
Kristina still has Manolos she wore as a teen, that she wears even today. “Because they are not trying to be any moment in time, they’re beautiful and comfortable,” she says emphatically. When you invest in a pair, you are buying something which you’d still be able to wear in ten years. We’re not designing products to be disposed of. It’s something you are going to keep nurturing and love forever like a well-loved pair of Birkenstocks,” she remarks.
After studying architecture at the University of Cambridge, Kristina made the transition into the family fashion business. “In some ways, it’s downsizing what I was designing as an architect,” she laughs. The first day of my job at Manolo, I was on a plane to Italy to design the Spring 2010 collection.” she recalls.
The architect in Kristina is aligned with that of Birkenstock; form and function need to be equally balanced. “You shouldn’t be uncomfortable in anything you wear. Manolo has spent five decades honing and obsessing over comfort. We’ve never compromised one or the other. It’s the core of what we do,” she smiles.
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