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Birkenstock X UAL: Central Saint Martins

A collab close to and indeed after our very own hearts

Birkenstock has unveiled the final results of yet another incredible collaboration, this time with London’s most prestigious fashion and art school Central Saint Martins. The collab, something of an innovation itself, was more of a long-term education project, according to Birkenstock, focusing on both the research and design elements.

Oliver Reichert, CEO of Birkenstock said: “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.”

Starting in 2018, students from the CSM BA Fashion History & Theory course were invited to visit Birkenstock’s archives in the US, Italy, Japan and Germany. This research lasted for a year and allowed the students to understand the key components and learn from the rich history of over 250 years that Birkenstock possesses.

Following the success of the first research project, a second enterprise was assigned to the CSM MA Fashion course. These students were invited to design and create their own interpretations of the iconic 90s Tallahassee style shoe.

Alex Wolfe, Saskia Lenaerts, Alecsander Rothschild and Ding Yun Zhang are the four MA Fashion students whose designs left us impressed, equipped with distinctive and dynamic features that enhance the existing German heritage brand’s ergonomic shoe.

Saskia Lenaerts, a trained dancer, drew inspiration for her Terra design from the cork footbed. Focusing on the functionality, she says, “I was fascinated by the technology and composition of the iconic cork and latex footbed… It was created based on a shaped derived from our natural form. The imprints of our feet and where the pressures lie.” With regards to her work ethic and personal drive, Lenaerts says, “My work is a manifesto and a reflection of my personal trans-national migratory heritage and lifestyle. I push for a borderless, less violent and more culturally accepting world. I aim to disarm prejudice with my design practice.”

Her shoe is available in two colour-ways, blue and black or white and black. They have no separating toes segments, so feet can enjoy total freedom, while still having support at the back where it is most needed. Visually, there is something very appealing about the pointed cover flaps that resemble a mountain’s peak.

Terra by Saskia Lenaerts

Image courtesy of Birkenstock via

Alecsander Rothschild’s Bukarest shoe. It is undoubtedly elegant yet still manages to be fun. Rothschild, a Danish designer from a family of supportive artists, aims to question gender stereotypes. His creation involves clean, geometrical lines, taking on the image of a sculpture, which makes sense as he worked with French-Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi on this Greek God-like shoe. The shoes are available in white, silver and black; a shade suitable for how angelic or devilish you are feeling. Speaking on his work style, he says, “To be flamboyant regardless of gender expression is defiance.”

Screenshot of Bukarest shoe

Image courtesy of Birkenstock via

If you want more drama, Alex Wolfe’s Rotterdam Moto Boot is the one. The most colourful of the creations, they come in 3 colour-ways, including black, blue, and red. South-East London born and bred designer Wolfe based his work on ideas of being British. “London is chaotic and it embraces individuality, it’s so diverse and multicultural – you can wear whatever you want. The speed of everyday life has definitely influenced my work; the idea of the man on-the-go. ‘Britishness’ is kind of subjective/abstract, but I am influenced by the world around me. I wanted to capture a playful sense of irony and a youthful masculinity.” The orthopaedic revamped shoes give gladiator vibes, just with a lot more edge and sensuality.

Rotterdam Moto Boot by Alex Wolfe

Image courtesy of Birkenstock via

Finally, Chinese designer Dingyun Zhang, also known for his love of oversized silhouettes and innovative work at Kanye West’s Yeezy. For him, it really is all about comfort, simplicity and sustainability in particular. “I took the concept of comfort, from the most comfortable place for us all – our duvets.”

Using sustainable man-made leather paired with the long-lasting Birkenstock technology, Dingyun created the Cosy shoe, available in black or white colourways. “I wanted to select materials and a silhouette to compliment that concept and create a cohesive product of comfort. I experiment with combining synthetic fabrics with different processes to create alternatives to animal textiles for long-lasting accessories and luxury goods.”

Cosy shoe designed by Dingyun Zhang

Image courtesy of Birkenstock via

After Birkenstock’s 2020 collabs with the likes of Rick Owens and Valentino, as well as their ‘Arizona’ shoe being one of the most shopped items in 2020, the Jesus-slippers really have become a wardrobe staple and earned their high-fashion status. With summer approaching, comfort-lovers who have been cooped up working from home will certainly be pleased to hear their dream shoes are back and better than ever. So many options, so little time!

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