A Giant Leap for Young Designers

Global footwear megabrand Birkenstock collaborates with London’s Central Saint Martins with an education project that features the winning collections by its MA graduates, now available in India.

Alex Wolfe's armour like Moto Boot, Rotterdam, for Birkenstock

Birkenstock, the global heritage brand, has just launched its education project with Central Saint Martins in London, in the form of a project in the MA Fashion course, which comes on the heels of a course it commissioned for the BA Fashion History and Theory in 2018 (graduates were given access to the archive of the brand’s 250-year history, in the US, Italy, Japan and to the Birkenstock Headquarters in Germany).

The result of this research translated into a second project with the MA Fashion course. Inviting students to give their interpretation of emblematic styles in their contemporary way, thus shaping the future of the iconic German brand.

One year later a jury of 12 renowned industry leaders led by Birkenstock CEO Oliver Reichert, MA Fashion Course Director Fabio Piras and fashion critic Sarah Mower MBE, were invited by Birkenstock to review all student portfolios and selected a shortlist of 10 finalists awarded as the winning designs with a first bursary award.

Tallahassee Archive Re-Issue Style Black and White

“Investing in and connecting with future talents is working with free spirits,” says Oliver Reichert, CEO, Birkenstock. “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.”

“Working with Birkenstock has been an incredibly gratifying experience for all our students involved in this collaborative project,” says Fabio Piras, Course Director, MA Fashion. “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.” And speaking of this first in the brand’s history, this is one of the professors in the BA Fashion History & Theory course had to say: “This is a unique student project combining historical enquiry with innovative design,” says Professor Alistair O’Neill. “It has been our great pleasure to collaborate with Birkenstock, as we value its commitment to responsibility, quality and integrity.”

Alecsander Rothschild's Bukarest sandal for Birkenstock

Over a year of product development, four of the student designs have qualified for serial production. Each design has the student’s name embossed in the iconic Birkenstock footbed.

The collection is supported by a campaign, by Walter Pfeiffer in Paris. This iconic photographer captures the students with their design and chosen looks of their graduation collection. 

Tallahassee Archive Re-Issue Style Black and Blue

As a result of the Archive research and to complement the student designs, the iconic Birkenstock Tallahassee Style from the 1990s sees a rebirth in contrast colour designs as the first Archive Re-Issue style.

Here are the four finalists of Central Saint Martins’ MA Fashion course, and their creations:

Rotterdam Moto Boot by Alex Wolfe


Born in South-East London, Alex Wolfe explores and questions concepts of ‘Britishness’ and ‘masculine’ identity, with an often playful and subversive approach, striking a balance between functional design and conceptual expression. Alex features on Vogue.com ‘Editors on Their Favourite Moments From the Fall 2020 Shows’. His Birkenstock inspiration: The Moto Sandal is a turbulent twist on Birkenstock’s orthopaedic history. Colliding the idea of a supportive shin brace with protective motocross gear.

Bukarest by Alecsander Rothschild


Alecsander Rothschild is a Danish fashion designer. Before starting the MA Fashion at Central Saint Martins, Alecsander worked for Thierry Mugler in Paris. In 2017, Alecsander was chosen for Italian Vogue’s New Talent issue. His Birkenstock inspiration: The idea behind his sandals comes from his background, having grown up in a family of artists (painters, sculptors, and designers). He decided to honour his background by looking into the world of sculptures, specifically Brancusi. “What I found interesting in Brancusi was his shapes, of course, but mostly the contrasts in the materials and textures,” says Alecscander.

Terra by Saskia Lenaerts


Saskia Lenaerts is a transnational designer. Her work aims to disarm prejudice, and pushes for a more unified and borderless world, founded on celebrating both our cultural differences and commonalities. She holds a Master’s degree in Fashion (menswear) from Central Saint Martins, She is the winner of The Considered Design award sponsored by Johnstons of Elgin and L’Oreal Professionnel scholarship. Her Birkenstock inspiration: Saskia Lenaerts’s Birkenstock sandal celebrates the heritage and comfort of the iconic Birkenstock latex and cork footbed. The natural shape and function of a footprint are recreated as a cushioned upper. It reveals the effortless beauty of the space left behind from a footprint in the sand.

Dingyun Zhang's Cosy sandal for Birkenstock


Chinese menswear fashion designer and footwear designer, Dingyun is a graduate from Central Saint Martins BA Fashion 2018, and MA Fashion in 2020. His Birkenstock inspiration: A theoretical bond of sustainable ideas on long term comfort, materials, and functionality.

Tallahassee Archive Re-Issue Style White

The collection is available in India exclusively on the brand website www.birkenstock.in/1774


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