Birkenstocks are back – Birkenstock X CSM

The return of the Birkenstocks is one we hate to admit, we never saw coming. The iconic ‘dad’ sandal has taken a revamp and we are left to wonder if their reimagined designs will be able to win us over this time?

The Birkenstock sandal has become the ultimate work from home shoe and has seen a popularity surge like no other. According to Lyst, since May 2020, chunky sandals have seen a boost in searches of up to 66%.

In 2018, BA Fashion History and Theory students of Central Saint Martins in London were invited by Birkenstock to visit their archives, in the hopes of enabling the students to expand their knowledge on the history of the brand founded in 1774.

This original project quickly turned into a two year long collaboration which has seen four CSM MA Fashion students produce their own modern interpretation of the iconic Birkenstock 1774 sandals. To accompany the four new designs of the CSM students, Birkenstock is also set to produce their first-ever archive re-issue of the 1990’s Tallahassee design in brand new contrasting colourways.

Image credit: Birkenstock

In a Q&A with Birkenstock, the four CSM students (Saskia Lenaerts, Dingyun Zhang, Alex Wolfe and Alecsander Rothschild) shared the inspiration behind their designs:

  1. Saskia Lenaerts

Image credit: Birkenstock

“I was fascinated by the technology and composition of the iconic cork and latex foot bed. It is the foundation that Birkenstock rests upon and it’s the foundation that you physically stand on when wearing the sandal. I felt instantly it should be my starting point to the design process,” Lenaerts told Birkenstock.

“The foot bed consists of two shapes that I feel are effortlessly aesthetic. It seemed inevitable for me to bring them out from under the foot and shine a spotlight on the iconic sole Birkenstock is built upon. I wanted to create a cushioned upper to go hand in hand with the foot bed – to celebrate its heritage. My shoe reflects optimism and freedom. This design is a celebration of natural beauty and form that I believe Birkenstock has built its functionality and success upon.”

2. Dingyun Zhang

Image credit: Birkenstock

“One of the main polluting textiles in luxury goods is leather. Finding alternatives to animal products is a key part of increasing sustainability. In my collection, I’ve used bonding techniques with nylon and neoprene to create imitation leather, maintaining a strong quality and long-lasting material,” Zhang said to Birkenstock.

“I took the concept of comfort, from the most comfortable place for us all – our duvets. The concept of wearing duvets on our feet is a simple yet versatile design than can be worn without thinking. The foot bed was the best component to combine with my concept of comfort, given it moulds to the foot of every individual. I want the wearer to be able to express their individual style. Anyone should be able pull off these shoes, but the duvet style silhouette still makes it an eye-catching part of the outfit.”

3. Alex Wolfe

Image credit: Birkenstock

“I am influenced by the world around me. I wanted to capture a playful sense of irony and a youthful masculinity. The speed of everyday life has definitely influenced my work; the idea of the man on-the-go. Functionality is exciting, and for shoes essential. It’s about balancing those important elements with your own creative expression,” Wolfe told Birkenstock.

“I like to work between the lines of something playful and something serious. Exploring that duality is very natural for me. 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.”

4. Alecsander Rothschild

Image credit: Birkenstock

“I decided on working with Brancusi as reference because I really liked the simplicity of his work. One of his principals when creating was “simplicity as principal” – I thought this was very much in line with Birkenstock’s idea of their sandals,” Rothschild explained to Birkenstock.

“Upon further research into Brancusi, you find all these minor details that are quite contradictory, such as a smooth surface but somewhere the sculptures have zigzag forced into the marble or brass, which becomes a super contrast to what you see overall when first looking. This became the foundation for my idea for my sandals.”

You can shop the full collection now from select stores worldwide and on 1774.com.

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