The footwear brand presented its AW18 collection at Pitti Uomo, and even had models in – *gasp* – socks and sandalsBirkenstock
From organ-shifting corsets to foot binding, fashion has never been that worried about wellbeing. Who needs to do silly things like breathe or walk, right? But somewhere during the current decade all that’s shifted, thanks to things like elevated slacker sportswear and the Birkenstock phenomenon. The German footwear giant’s anatomical fussbett – or footbed – concept is a major part of the self-care, feel-good wave. Consider their fur-lined Arizona sandals the very opposite of the ugly stepsister fashion victims hacking off a toe and a heel to fit into Cinderella’s glass slipper.
This week, Team Birkenstock has been at Pitti Uomo in Florence to present the AW18 collection in an indoor-outdoor space reflecting the brand’s supreme chill. “It’s how we dress,” notes Yvonne Piu, Birkenstock’s chief marketing officer. “Yesterday I told a colleague to ‘please take off your tie’ because it doesn’t fit anymore! Now is not the time to be too formal.”
While Pitti is a menswear Mecca – and Birkenstock has recently brought in a designer to look after their men’s pieces – the brand is also undeniably and intrinsically genderless. Expect women to be snapping up the AW18 men’s Rotterdam utility logo sandals, with a buckle that took a year to develop. Or its luxe opposite, a sleek all-leather sandal. They’ve also ventured into winter boots, like the furry Masi that hides a full footbed inside. “I think we’ve really succeeded in bringing the DNA of the sandals into the closed shoes. The design team was able to translate the handwriting and material language,” Piu says.
“The Birkenstock appeal is intertwined with fashion’s obsession with the cool-uncool, a defining trait of the current decade. We’re in thrall to the weird, the slightly wrong, the attraction-revulsion compulsion”
With its cork-soled feet firmly on the ground, Birkenstock is one of those brands that are always here regardless of whether fashion’s tectonic plates have shifted in its direction. They’re in fashion but also outside of fashion, and that’s generally a good place to be for a brand. Lately, though, the fashion odds have been firmly in Birkenstock’s favour. Not since grunge (and that fateful collection which got Marc Jacobs fired from Perry Ellis) has there been such a Birkenstock moment.
From Phoebe Philo’s homage at Céline to the slider incarnations that have been making the runway rounds and even Manolo Blahnik declaring his love for the sandals, fashion worships at Birkenstock’s orthopaedic feet. “We are pleased that people are doing that,” says Piu on the topic of brands borrowing from their ethos and aesthetic. “Because whenever a luxury brand is bringing that on stage then the acceptance and the (audience) becomes even bigger, and people research the original, and it’s more in demand,” Piu says, adding: “It’s not bad taste anymore.”
Still, some part of the Birkenstock appeal is intertwined with fashion’s obsession with the cool-uncool, a defining trait of the current decade. We’re in thrall to the weird, the slightly wrong, the attraction-revulsion compulsion. The stranger the better, really. Someone who excels at the beauty of strange is Rick Owens, whose imminent Birkenstock collaboration is a perfect meeting of kindred spirits in lasting design and wellbeing. “He’s an outstanding designer. I was impressed with how he only changed little things on the shoe. Like he extended the straps, he added some more holes and that gave the shoe a completely new look,” Piu says. Come March 16, the Birkenstock Box – the brand’s travelling shipping container pop-up – will arrive outside Rick Owens’ LA store on La Brea. Expect queues around the block. Health goth wellness we don’t need a cure for.
View the latest styles from Birkenstock here.