MARCH 30 201

VOGUE.COM — RICK OWENS’S BIRKENSTOCKS HAVE LANDED ON LA BREA — THE DESIGNER TALKS EXCLUSIVELY TO VOGUE ABOUT THE COLLABORATION— 30 MARCH 2018 — BY SARAH MOWER

IN THE UGLY-SHOE CONTEST DU JOUR—A HIGHLY FASHIONABLE ONE, AS WE ALL KNOW—BIRKENSTOCK MUST LAY CLAIM TO BEING FIRST PAST THE POST, OH, AT LEAST TWO GENERATIONS AGO. GERMAN-MADE, BUILT FOR COMFORT, AND COOL WITH THE COUNTERCULTURE OF BOTH ’70S HIPPIES AND ’90S GRUNGERS, THEY’VE BEEN AROUND LONG ENOUGH TO PASS INTO FAMILIAR INTERNATIONAL PARLANCE AS BIRKS. WHO KNEW, THEN, THAT BIRKENSTOCK HAS NEVER YET INVOLVED ITSELF WITH A FASHION DESIGNER? RICK OWENS DOES, BECAUSE HE’S THE FIRST. “IT’S FUNNY—YOU JUST ASSUME THAT THEY HAVE, BECAUSE EVERYONE HAS DONE THEIR ‘VERSION OF,’ BUT THERE’S NEVER BEEN AN OFFICIAL BIRKENSTOCK-ENDORSED ONE,” HE MARVELS. “THAT’S WHY I WANTED TO DO IT.”

SO HOW HAS HE CHOSEN TO INTERVENE IN THE DESIGN OF THE FAMILIAR SANDAL AND CLOG SHAPES WITH THE TIME-HONORED ORTHOPEDIC FOOTBED? WITH RESPECT: “I DIDN’T REALLY WANT TO DO THAT MUCH TO THEM,” HE SAYS LACONICALLY. “I DIDN’T REALLY WANT TO THROW A LOT OF SPANGLES AT IT AND CALL IT A DAY. I WANTED TO DO SOMETHING TO THE ARCHITECTURE, SO I JUST EXTENDED THE STRAPS SO THEY HIT THE FLOOR, AND I ADDED MORE HOLES, BECAUSE WHEN YOU ADD HOLES THEY BECOME CONFECTION, LIKE LACE. PUNCHING HOLES ALWAYS MAKES SOMETHING MORE DELICATE.”

HE DESCRIBES THE TWO-BAR SANDAL IN COWHIDE AS HAVING “STRAPS LIKE FEATHERED WINGS. I DID THEM IN MY COLOR PALETTE OF GRAYS AND PEARLS. THEY’RE ACTUALLY VERY PRETTY!”

VERY PUBLIC PROOF OF THE ARRANGEMENT HAS NOW PULLED UP OUTSIDE THE RICK OWENS STORE ON LA BREA AVENUE IN LOS ANGELES, IN THE SHAPE OF A SHIPPING CONTAINER MARKED BIRKENSTOCKBOX.COM/RICK OWENS. THE CORRUGATED-METAL BOX—TO BE OFFICIALLY OPENED APRIL 17—HAS BEEN ON THE MOVE FROM BERLIN, WHERE IT WAS PARKED OUTSIDE THE ANDREAS MURKUDIS SHOP, TO THE STREET IN MILAN OPPOSITE THE HIGH-FASHION MAGNET 10 CORSO COMO, AND TO BOTH THE WHITNEY AND BARNEYS NEW YORK, EACH TIME FILLED WITH DIFFERENTLY CURATED BIRKENSTOCK ASSORTMENTS. ON THIS STOP, THE INTERIOR OF THE BIRK BOX HAS BEEN OVERHAULED AS A TOTAL OWENS WORLD.

“I’VE FITTED IT OUT WITH MY FURNITURE, WHICH IS UPHOLSTERED IN CAMEL HAIR, FELT, OR FOAM,” OWENS SAYS. “MY GRAY FELT THING IS VERY MUCH ABOUT JOSEPH BEUYS. EVERY COLLECTION, I’VE ALWAYS DONE GRAY FELTED CASHMERE, AND WHEREVER I LIVE, I’VE ALWAYS USED ARMY BLANKETS FOR CARPETS—MY BED IS UPHOLSTERED IN ARMY BLANKETS. THAT’S MY CONNECTION WITH BEUYS.”

TO OWENS, THE ATTRACTION TO BEUYS IS PERSONAL, FORMATIVE, AND SURPRISINGLY LOCAL TO L.A. “IT’S MY CONNECTION WITH HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD,” HE EXPLAINS, MULLING OVER HIS BEGINNINGS. “WHEN I FIRST STARTED MAKING CLOTHES, ALL THE PUNK KIDS USED TO BUY ARMY SURPLUS—THEY DYED IT BLACK. THOSE WERE MY FIRST COLLECTIONS, MADE OUT OF USED DUFFEL BAGS AND ARMY BLANKETS FROM HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD. THERE’S A MELANCHOLY ROMANCE TO THOSE BLANKETS, BECAUSE THEY’VE BEEN USED IN THE MILITARY.” THE INFLUENCE, HE REVEALS, SEEPED PERMANENTLY INTO THE DEFAULT OWENS COLOR PALETTE. “YOU SEE, THE DYE YOU GET AT THE GROCERY STORE IS CHEAP, AND IT DOESN’T MAKE A GREAT BLACK. SO ARMY-GREEN CLOTHES IN BLACK WOULD FADE INTO THIS WONDERFUL GREEN-MURKY BLACK THAT I ALWAYS USE IN EVERY COLLECTION. I CALL IT EITHER DUST OR DARK SHADOW.”

AS ALWAYS, LOOK OUT FOR SOMETHING DEEPER IN ANYTHING OWENS LAYS HIS HANDS ON. AS FOR FEET? THOSE WHO WALK AWAY FROM LA BREA IN A PAIR OF ARMY-FELT BIRKS WILL NOW KNOW THEIR SIGNIFICANCE. IT’S THE ONLY CHANCE TO GET THEM, TOO. “THIS,” HE SAYS, “IS A ONE-SHOT DEAL.”