- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
Heritage footwear brand Birkenstock has been working with Central Saint Martins on a long-term educational project, which has seen students from the MA Fashion and BA Fashion History and Theory courses collaborating with the brand on a research and design lead partnership.
The result of this project, spanning two years since conception, has seen 10 shortlisted students awarded a bursary award and four finalists were chosen to produce a serial collection, as well as allowing students from both courses access to Birkenstock’s archives in the US, Italy, Japan and at its headquarters in Germany.
The move is part of Birkenstock’s commitment to education, encompassing research and design, and follows the brand commissioning CSM BA Fashion History and Theory course to research and enrich its vast archive.
“Investing in and connecting with future talents is working with free spirits,” said Oliver Reichert, chief executive at Birkenstock in a statement. “A priority for forward-thinking brands, especially a democratic brand that embraces all like Birkenstock. The students showed a genuine understanding of design and delivered a convincing end result.”
Each research trip enabled students to immerse into Birkenstock’s culture and legacy to extract and define the core elements of Birkenstock’s history spanning over 250 years. The result of this research has been translated into a second project with the MA Fashion History course, inviting students to give their interpretation of emblematic styles in their contemporary way to create styles inspired by the Birkenstock archive.
Birkenstock to launch archive re-issue collection designed by Central Saint Martins students
This research project will see the brand’s first Archive Re-Issue collection featuring the iconic Birkenstock Tallassee from the 1990s, which has been given a contrast colour makeover, alongside the four winning graduate designs, as chosen by a judging panel led by Reichert, MA Fashion course director Fabio Piras and fashion critic Sarah Mower, who reviewed all the student portfolios.The winning designs, which will now go into production, are by Alex Wolfe, Alecsander Rothschild, Saskia Lenaerts and Dingyun Zhang, who have all adding their own aesthetic to the Birkenstock, and will see their name embossed in the Birkenstock footbed.
British designer Alex Wolfe explores and questions concepts of ‘Britishness’ and ‘masculine’ identity, while striking a balance between functional design and conceptual expression and took inspiration for the Moto Sandal from the idea of colliding a supportive shin brace with protective motocross gear.
While Danish fashion designer Alecsander Rothschild, who worked for Mugler in Paris before starting the MA Fashion course, and won the Designer’s Nest competition and was chosen for Italian Vogue’s New Talent issue took inspiration for his Birkenstock design from his background growing up in a family of artists inspired by the world of sculptures, specifically Brancusi.
Saskia Lenaerts, who holds a Master’s degree in fashion menswear from Central Saint Martins, and was winner of The Considered Design award and L’Oreal Professionnel scholarship celebrates the heritage and comfort of the iconic Birkenstock latex and cork footbed in her design, and Chinese menswear and footwear designer Dingyun Zhang, a graduate from Central Saint Martins BA Fashion in 2018, and MA Fashion in 2020, took inspiration from the theoretical bond of sustainable ideas on long term comfort, materials, and functionality for his black and white Birkenstocks.
Fabio Piras, course director, MA Fashion, added: “Working with Birkenstock has been an incredibly gratifying experience for all our students involved in this collaborative project. Four were selected as the winning team and now see their design ideas taken into production and communicated across the brand’s global retail network.
“As a course director, I want my students to think that their being creative is what gives them commercial potential. I am very grateful to Birkenstock for their exceptional commitment in supporting fashion education in practice with this rewarding opportunity.”
The Archive Re-Issue collection featuring the Tallahassee Style and the limited-edition student capsule collection will be available with select stores worldwide and on Birkenstock’s 1774.com website from February 2021.
Images: courtesy of Birkenstock; main image - Saskia Lenaerts and Alecsander Rothschild