fashion

Manolo Blahnik and Birkenstock: Why high fashion finds this functional footwear brand irresistible

Published 15th March 2022
Credit: Manolo Blahnik
Manolo Blahnik and Birkenstock: Why high fashion finds this functional footwear brand irresistible
Written by Leah Dolan, CNN
Famed luxury shoe designer Manolo Blahnik and Birkenstock have unveiled a "proudly glamorous" collaboration that reimagines two classic styles from the German brand -- known for cork-soled comfort -- in bright jewel colors and opulent materials.
The two-strapped Arizona sandal and Boston clog mule have been transformed by Blahnik in three colorways, including two new designs that replace the standard leather and suede that Birkenstock wearers are used to with plush velvet in fuschia and sapphire blue. Each regal-looking sandal is finished with an embellished silver clasp and black sole.
Velvet gives the everyday Birkenstock a decadent edge.
Velvet gives the everyday Birkenstock a decadent edge. Credit: Manolo Blahnik
"Birkenstocks have been in my wardrobe since the very beginning," Blahnik said in a statement. "I have loved and worn mine for many years. I am thrilled that we have been able to collaborate."
Blahnik, known for his satin stilettos, has been designing luxury footwear since 1970. His creations, which have graced many a red carpet, also crossed over into popular culture as a favorite of "Sex in the City" protagonist Carrie, whose love interest Mr. Big used a pair of Manolo Blahnik blue satin jewel buckle pumps to propose.
The pink velvet Arizonas are among the most eye catching in the collection.
The pink velvet Arizonas are among the most eye catching in the collection. Credit: Manolo Blahnik
While at first glance Birkenstocks may seem incongruous with luxury, the brand has become a magnet for high fashion labels -- even more so since the beginning of the pandemic, when consumer appetites shifted toward extreme comfort. In 2020, British Vogue named Birkenstocks the sandal of the year. That spring, searches for the footwear increased 225%, according to global fashion shopping app Lyst.
The shoe manufacturer previously released collections with conceptual designer Rick Owens, storied Italian label Valentino and Celine while Phoebe Philo was still at the creative helm of the French house. Owens kept his iteration simple with an elongated strap tail in patent oil-slick leather, while Philo lined the molded cork sandal in mink. Since 2020, there have been at least seven notable high-fashion Birkenstock collaborations, with labels such as Proenza Schouler, Jil Sander, Toogood and Stüssy.
In February 2021, Brooklyn-based art collective MSCHF made waves with their "Birkenstock" drop -- a handful of sandals made from deconstructed Hermès Birkin bags. Though MSCHF's controversial shoes (priced between $34,000 and $76,000) were not affiliated with the Birkenstock brand or Hermès.
The collaboration includes a black leather colorway.
The collaboration includes a black leather colorway. Credit: Manolo Blahnik
At a Paris menswear show in January this year, Dior revealed its own forthcoming Birkenstock redesign -- complete with engraved Dior buckles and embroidered flowers.
Earlier this month, Birkenstock announced it had agreed to sell a majority stake of the family owned company to luxury conglomerate LVMH, further securing its footing in the high-fashion world.
As coronavirus restrictions ease and many return to the office, tastes continue to adapt. With more places to go, there's a marked return to glam -- as demonstrated on the runways during fashion month -- but not without comfort. Which makes Manolo Blahnik's luxurious velvet Birkenstocks the cutting edge of fashion.
Top image: Manolo Blahnik x Birkenstock collaboration released March 24.