Birkenstock has been a global powerhouse since the 1970s. The iconic sandal with a shaped footbed can trace its origins back to 1774. Today Birkenstock products are sold in 90 countries on all continents. Yet despite its global appeal and practicality, they are in the eyes of the high fashion world - antifashion. Often clumpy, basic and functional they have been found on the feet of many non-chic individuals. But change is afoot.
The Birkenstock 1774 collection has seen collaborations between Valentino, 032C and lately Rick Owens. These collaborations are paving the way for innovative designs across the brand. The latest collaboration between the self-described ‘grim and determined glamour’ Rick Owens, sees the avant-garde high fashion designer play with the architecture of the traditional Birkenstock sandal.
Birkenstock personally asked Rick Owens, and despite being quoted as “not the collaborative type,” he relished the chance to work with Birkenstock as he felt it was a “delicious collab,” as he admires Birkenstock’s company ethos, in that they emphasise “health” and “well-being.”
Rick Owens wife Michèle Lamy fell in love with the idea of a collaboration, as such in Owens words, “she has the final judgement on everything.”
The collaboration reconfigures both shape and form in true Rick Owens flair. The brand’s most recognisable sandals, Arizona, is covered in grey calf-hair. Whilst the Rotterdam and further Arizona silhouettes have elongated straps in an array of metallics and colour blocking techniques,
Then looking at the Rotterhiker boot, you find a metal buckle on the upper strap for easy fastening, an elongated tongue, atypical of Owens and a translucent sole.
"I'm not interested in just decorating the sandals, it had to be more than applying sequins and studs,”
“Here, I wanted to do something architectural, so we lengthened the straps and you wouldn't believe the discussions we had to make it happen. They're all about safety. It’s their values and I respect them for it, that’s what drew me to work with them in the first place.”
He may be dark, he may scare us with what comes down the runway in his fashion shows but at the end of the day, he is of Californian native origin.,
“The barefoot sandal thing, that’s my jam.” Rick Owens
And what may feel a random collaboration to many, is, in fact, the perfect welcome juxtaposition that fashion can provide.