Aesthetic and structural standards make the Birkenstock the perfect shoe every time. Becoming a potential target for many luxury brands to ask for collaboration and moreover for acquisition pricing.
Why do birkenstock slippers though ugly still have a timeless appeal?
Born in 1774, throughout the life of more than 2 centuries, Birkenstock still firmly believes in two things. The first is to maintain the open-toed slipper style, made of suede, with a cork sole (a mixture of bark, resin, and industrial glue) to create a sense of ventilation. The second thing is to be consistent with 100% production in Germany despite the expensive processing costs, in order to maintain the “Made in Germany” quality.
It must be affirmed that the Birkenstock slippers are extremely… bad. But inherently it is designed to protect the feet, not born as a fashion product. However, with its exclusivity, belief in the mission, and unchanging aesthetic, Birkenstock has stood firm in volatile fashion industry.
Birkenstock is named after its founder Johann Birkenstock. The first model of slippers produced in 1774 was relatively simple, with a flat sole and a leather upper. It was not until 1896 that the successor Konrad Birkenstock invented the sole model shaped to simulate the sole of the foot. 1902 introduced a high-arched sole to support the arch of the foot. These innovations help create a pair of slippers that protect the soles of the feet when walking.
Thanks to its unique sole, the Birkenstock became popular with post-World War II soldiers, health-conscious people, and athletes. However, this pair of slippers was also rejected by many stores because they looked too bad. In the 20th century, it was mainly sold in health stores and associated with the image of fathers “wearing well and wearing durable” somewhat rural.
Birkenstock only started reaching the fashion world in the 1970s thanks to the hippie trend. Hippies love things that are not restrictive, and made of natural materials, and Birkenstock is such a design.
And then in the 1990s, thanks to the promotion of supermodel Kate Moss, the new brand gained the acceptance of many fashionistas around the world. It was also the milestone that brought Birkenstock out of the fathers’ wardrobe and into the high fashion world.
Today, it’s not too hard to see Birkenstock sandals or strappy sandals in the street style of celebrities. Longtime Birkenstock followers include Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, Chrissy Teigen, Gigi Hadid, and Katie Holmes. All are A-list stars, “it girl” models, and influential people.
The person who saw the potential of the Birkenstock brand was Bernard Arnault – president of the LVMH group. Through a personal finance company, he acquired Birkenstock in 2021 for €4 billion.
This acquisition surprised many people because no one expected the Birkenstock slippers to be so attractive. However, Mr. Bernard Arnault is an “old wolf” and understands the power of a brand. Birkenstock has a loyal fan base like the hypebeast brands, has strengths in health aspects, and has a unique identity.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, comfortable fashion items continue to be popular. Therefore, Birkenstock with open-toed slippers, flip-flops, and strappy sandals beat high-heeled shoe brands to become a comfortable choice.
Besides, Birkenstock is also an item suitable for genderless (unisex/genderless) clothing. This attitude is suitable for young people’s requests to break gender barriers. And certainly, Birkenstock sandals will remain popular for a long time.
To become an influential fashion item, hypebeast collabs are indispensable
To enhance the fashion of Birkenstock slippers can not help but thanks to the combination with high fashion brands. Birkenstock collabs are like a strange, comfortable, and desirable wind, making the hypebeast world stand still. Here are some of Birkenstock’s most popular collabs.
The Staud brand uses Birkenstock’s iconic Arizona and Gizeh sandals as a base, offering exquisite Italian alligator embossed leather, and contrasting metal fittings. To celebrate the partnership, Staud also created two handbags and 12 outfits.
Dior Men has partnered with Birkenstock for the Fall/Winter 2022 collection, releasing two brand new Tokio mule and Milano sandals. The Tokyo Mules and Milano Sandals have been combined in Dior Gray tones. Milano Sandals are made of suede and feature saddlebag-inspired buckles. Felt-lined Tokio Mules are embroidered with delicate flowers in tribute to Monsieur Dior’s love of nature and gardening.
The Birkenstock slippers are covered in velvet and feature crystal straps – two signature Blahnik signatures. No one thought a high-heeled shoemaker would work with a 180º opposite competitor, so it was a hypebeast handshake that stunned many.
Jil Sander gives Birkenstocks an interesting and functional version, with a magnified outsole and beautiful full-grain leather straps.
Following the success of the iconic Valentino red bathing Arizona slippers, the pair release the sandals for Spring/Summer 2021. The design evokes the ’80s sense of fun and freedom while preserving its elegance of Valentino.
The Proenza Schouler remix is a game with striking contours on the strap of the sandal. The velcro detail instead of the traditional buckle is a noticeable change in this combination.
Rick Owens is a designer with a strong background in leather. He released an avant-garde-inspired version of the Birkenstock Arizona sandals. The focused design highlights the cork base and reflective silver strap for dramatic futuristic vibes.
The collaboration between streetwear brands Stüssy and Birkenstock created shoes that are both street fashion and comfortable.
Unlike the partners mentioned above, Toogood does not seem to be the right fit for Birkenstock. By Toogood is based in London, specializing in interior design, home appliances, and fine art. But the congruence of function and design has resulted in three successful versions. These include Forager, Mudlark, and Beachcomber.
Contrary to the achievements after many collaborations above, Birkenstock still aims to create slippers for everyone. Oliver Reichert, a CEO, hopes the brand will become more popular in the future. “In 10 years, I want to give people ownership of Birkenstock sandals. I don’t want us to be used as a fashion brand.”
Therefore, Birkenstock always focuses on creating designs made of durable, beautiful and quality materials “Made in Germany”. Suede lining, soft to the touch and good moisture wicking provides significant odor control. The cork sole is shockproof, creating ventilation for the soles of the feet.
The key to Birkenstock’s comfort is the shoe’s orthopedic sole. The base is precisely designed to conform to the anatomical shape of the foot, ensuring stability and comfort. The centerpiece of each Birkenstock features a pad specifically designed for the health of the wearer. It has a deep, concave heel that keeps the foot in its natural position. In addition, the embossed wave lines under the cushion are also designed with the intention of helping the foot keep a better balance.
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