Back in April, Rick Owens celebrated his Birkenstock collab in a pretty bizarre fashion: a night of ‘foot worship’ in his LA store, where partygoers had their feet lubed up, with Birkenstock’s recently-released moisturising lotion, and then massaged. If that wasn’t weird enough, carefully-selected attendees were then ushered into a mini studio, where photographer Paul Kooiker snapped shots of them in the chic, grey cow hair Birkenstocks.
Now, these black-and-white images have emerged in a limited edition zine, and they’re as unusual as you might expect. Against a torn paper backdrop, the partygoers (who must have been glad they painted their toenails) have arranged themselves in various poses: on tiptoe, lying supine with their legs in the air, or simply standing head-on to show off the full extent of the furry sandals. In other images, the Rick Owens Birkenstocks stand alone against monochrome mirrored surfaces or nestle in a bed of fur.
On working with Paul Kooiker for the project, Rick Owens tells us that he “captures a slightly depraved elegance that I have always aimed for. He has a signature that he just keeps refreshing”. It was this depraved elegance that was on show in the photographer’s images for Rick Owens’ SS16 show – shot for Dazed’s spring/summer 2016 issue – and it’s this that makes the Birkenstock x Rick Owens images so compelling.
While the images in the new zine may seem somewhat fetishistic, however, with their glistening sheen, occasional upskirt shots, and (obviously) their laser focus on the models’ mostly-bare feet, Kooiker makes it clear that it was all about the shoes. “I enjoyed photographing the Birkenstocks, the feet played a less important role in this series,” he explains. “I don’t have a strong opinion on feet. I like them the most when there is something around, like shoes and sandals.”
That’s not to say that nothing explicit went down during the shoot, though. Revealing his favourite image from the shoot, the photographer tells us it’s the last he took “after two hours of sweat in a really claustrophobic space”. “A man came to me asking if he could be photographed, I was tired, and I made a joke ‘I’ll take your picture when you are willing to pose nude’. Within 10 seconds he had taken his clothes off and was standing nude in front of me.” All that and more to look forward to in the zine.
This limited edition zine will be given with any Birkenstock x Rick Owens purchase at select Rick Owens stores.