If New York fashion week designers like Katherine Polk of Houghton, Micah Cohen of Shades of Grey, and Danielle Sherman of Edun, and Trina Turk have anything to say about it, ugly-cool footwear--namely Birkenstocks--will be hotter than ever next spring/summer.
After the Houghton show, I ran into Birkenstock director of product development Shelly Glasgow backstage (as I was trying to snap a close up pic of the handmade embroidered pair of Arizonas worn on the runway) and she was more than happy to chat with me about the fashion world embracing the hippie crunchy sandal.
Fashionista: So Birkenstocks are now a fashion thing. Did you guys see this coming? Shelly Glasgow: Well, we did see it coming, but I’ve been doing this for 17 years, so my job is to hold it steady and really create a classic kind of look--it really doesn’t change that much—but to really make it relevant. We saw this little thing happening out there with some folks wearing our product, particularly celebrities when they weren’t on, when they were being themselves and we said, “hey, this is something that they really enjoy doing when they’re themselves how can we embrace that a little bit and make that relevant for the market.”
Along with the custom pieces for Katherine Polk’s Houghton runway show, Birkenstocks has a collaboration with J. Crew. What’s your vetting process like for working with designers? It really has to feel right for the brand, but I’m okay if we push the envelope a little bit. This [fashion collaborations] isn’t where we’re going to live 100 percent of the time. We have such a following that I have to make sure that those people who have held this brand all the time don’t say, “oh they’ve sold out, they’re all fashion.” This is very traditional [she gestures toward the Houghton x Birkenstock brocade design], it just has different types of uppers on it. So we’re pretty exclusive.
Where else will we be seeing Birkenstocks during Fashion Week? We’re not doing collaborations per se in terms of designing in the way that we did with Houghton and handmade. Yesterday, Micah Cohen of Shades of Grey featured our product on the runway exclusively with all of his menswear and womenswear and we’ve got a couple other folks that I can’t say yet. So it’s pretty cool.
So what’s your strategy for not following the trajectory of UGG? Yeah, exactly. The style that I’m wearing, it’s the classic style in black, that’s like the number one style that every blogger is writing about—the black two-strap sandal. I mean that’s pretty much about as basic as you can get. It’s like we didn’t put rhinestones and all this stuff on it. That’s the silhouette and the color that people are liking. You can’t design to that it just happens, but it happens because we stayed true to who we are. We played around the edges a little bit just to push the boundaries a little bit, but then I think people appreciate that we’re true. We’re not an UGGs. We’re not here today and gone tomorrow. We’ve been doing this since 1962.