Jil Sander Brings ‘Squishiness’ to Birkenstock

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In an unusually trendless year, outerwear was one of the few authentic movements to emerge during 2020. The so-called GORPcore has moved beyond its crisp niche and into the collections of Gucci and Prada, while Patagonia and The North Face won full-. fashion references in their own right. But outdoor vibes have always been a part of Jil Sander +, the broadcast line launched by Creative Directors Luke and Lucie Meier in 2019 to complement their monastically pure main line with clothing designed for life outside the city.

Which means it was probably only a matter of time before they announced what will likely be their hottest collaboration yet: a four-shoe collection with Birkenstock. “It’s a genuine brand and a legitimate product for this type of environment,” Luke said during a Zoom call. “And, you know, we wanted to have the right feeling of what we’re doing in Jil Sander +, and Birkenstock gives us that feeling.”

Photograph by Talia Chetrit. Courtesy of Jil Sander.
Photograph by Talia Chetrit. Courtesy of Jil Sander.

Jil Sander has long been the Yuppie esthete’s dream work wardrobe; Jil Sander + is a kind of modernist approach to country clothing. Both Meiers are decidedly open-air (and the brand’s eponymous designer loved to brag about her weekends in the German ski resort of Gstadt, stopping at McDonald’s in her Bentley along the way). But these pieces aren’t just inspired by the outdoors. “You don’t want to sacrifice your take on aesthetics or quality, but you also have to consider things that actually work, that also have functionality,” Luke said. “So the idea was to really marry these worlds from Jil Sander’s point of view, with the same level of quality, the same attention to detail with things that are more in tune with the outside.” (The Meiers have their good faith in the outdoors: they collaborated with Arc’teryx in February.)

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The Meiers worked with three existing Birkenstock shapes (the classic Arizona sandal, the Milano heeled sandal, and the Berlin clog), exaggerating their proportions slightly and using Jil Sander level materials like raw-edged calfskin and the spongy suede. They also introduced a new silhouette, the Velan, a closed clog with a wraparound ankle strap – “more playful and a little more feminine,” Lucie said. They paid particular attention to the leathers and suede used for the project, which give the pieces their bulbous grace. “We love those things that you just want to go touch,” Lucie said. “This is what we were really looking for. They also redesigned the famous buckles of the shoes, making them slightly thinner, more refined. “I always think if you have something that looks good and works great,” Luke added, “it’s a lot more appealing.”

Courtesy of Jil Sander.
The Velan, in cream.Courtesy of Jil Sander.
The Milano, in black.Courtesy of Jil Sander.

Birkenstock has been considered a part of fashion for years now – Phoebe Philo introduced them to the fashion canon with a fur-lined version in 2013, and they were quickly adopted by style connoisseurs, including her colleague. Birks collaborator Rick Owens. But part of the appeal of this project lies in Meiers’ philosophical take on collaborations: Luke was previously the creative director of Supreme, the brand that shaped collaborations into an art form beyond mixing. high-low standard which tends to dominate luxury partnerships. “It’s about what really helps fulfill our vision of what we should be offering and what we want to do,” he said. “It’s not about putting two logos together. I also think a collaboration is an easy way to make news. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better product. If we work with someone it’s because together we arrive somewhere where neither of them [brand] could all alone.

The collection will be on sale at jilsander.com, 1774.com and mytheresa.com on July 1 and in Jil Sander stores around the world on July 8.

Photograph by Talia Chetrit. Courtesy of Jil Sander.

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