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February 17, 2021

Birkinstocks — 'The most exclusive sandal ever made'

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I so love this: "We're just sort of fascinated with destroying expensive things and creating something new out of them." — Daniel Greenberg, head of strategy for MSCHF   

Long story short: MSCHF's Birkinstock is a Birkenstock-like piece of footwear with an official Birkenstock cork-and-rubber sole, but with a leather upper made from purposefully chopped-up Hermès Birkin bags.

From a New York Times story:

On the second Monday in February, the Banksys of consumer culture struck again.

MSCHF, the Brooklyn collective that created the "Jesus shoe" (Nike sneakers with soles filled with holy water), "88 Holes" (a Damien Hirst spot painting with all the spots cut out and sold separately) and MSCHF X (an "impossible collab" wherein the group chopped up T-shirts from 10 streetwear fashion brands and patchworked them back together) has dropped its latest piece of social media catnip.

If Marcel Duchamp and Tom Sachs had a baby who was raised by Jeremy Scott of Moschino, this is what it might look like.

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The "Birkinstock" is either a raspberry to the high-end fashion world and its sudden obsession with the outdoor rec world; a pointed commentary on the cult of the Birkin, which has been labeled a better investment than gold; or a piece of performance art that gives new meaning to Joseph Schumpeter's concept of creative destruction. (There's a manifesto on the group's website to go with the shoes, full of high-minded meditations on resources, commodities and luxury.)

Or it's a cynical stunt calculated to break the internet, mocking hypebeast culture and profiting from it at the same time.

Maybe all of the above.

In any case, it is sure to put MSCHF, which thus far has made more noise in the art-technology-streetwear space, on the high-fashion radar.

They're trying to move beyond viral jokes into the meta-pop-pundit-sphere.

The shoes will be made to order and available while the supplies last.

Which, despite costing $34,000 to $76,000, depending on the size of the customer's foot, will probably not be very long, judging by both history and the availability of the raw material.

The Jesus shoes sold out in one minute, the Hirst spots even faster.

MSCHF bought only four Birkin bags [below, before and after]

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to serve as raw material, and three pairs of the shoes have already been sold: to Future, who is modeling his on his Instagram feed; Kehlani; and an unnamed art collector.

Plus MSCHF is planning to keep one for itself.

There may be only four to six pairs left.

(For all of its posturing as a sort of guerrilla band of merry pranksters, the collective has a V.I.P. list of celebrities and art collectors who get early access to the products when they are "at the expensive end of the spectrum," said Gabriel Whaley, 31, the chief executive.)

As to why they settled on a Birkin for their first entry into high fashion, aside from the obvious wordplay, Lukas Bentel, 28, one of MSCHF's creative directors, explained: "Birkin bags are like a cultural meme, a symbol for a certain kind of wealth." By "mashing it into a really accessible object," they wanted to force people to perhaps question that symbolism.

Plus, the wordplay really is kind of funny.

MSCHF was founded in 2016, and is normally based in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, though employees are now scattered around the boroughs.

It does drops the second and fourth Mondays of every month, ranging from abstract ideas like paying people to criticize companies it deems evil (Amazon, Facebook, Tesla) to concrete products like the Birkinstocks.

And it has developed something of a rabid following on social media as well as among a handful of celebrities like Drake.

Who, as it happens, is so obsessed with Birkins that he has multiple shelves devoted to the bags, which he collects for his future wife.

The Birkin, named for the actress Jane Birkin, was created by Hermès in 1984 and famously holds its value; one of the most expensive bags ever sold at auction was a white Diamond Himalaya Niloticus crocodile Birkin 30 with 18-karat white gold and diamond hardware, which went for more than $370,000 at Christie's in Hong Kong in 2017.

They are made by hand, take an artisan a minimum of 18 hours to make, and demand generally exceeds supply, meaning there are waiting lists in Hermès boutiques for the bags.

MSCHF, however, did not bother with a list.

Instead, the group bought four bags via resale sites for about $122,500, as well as some cheaper copies, which were used as practice to figure out how to take the bags apart so they could be remade as sandals.

At least two leather workshops in Brooklyn turned the team down when contacted about the project, as they were so horrified by the idea of cutting up a Birkin.

"We know some people are going to react with, 'What is wrong with you people?'" Mr. Greenberg said. "But we're OK being hated. We just don't want apathy."

Kevin Wiesner, 28, another creative director, added: "We really think nothing is sacred in our material choices. Normally, no one would touch a Birkin."

February 17, 2021 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


Comments

"And it has developed something of a rabid following on social media..."
Maybe it's keeping a handful away from the Proud Boys, Lion's Guard, et al.

A fool and his money are soon parted.

Posted by: xoxoxoBruce | Feb 18, 2021 10:08:19 PM

No matter what the upper material, the socks complete "the look": utterly vile.

Posted by: Luke | Feb 18, 2021 9:04:47 AM

Artsy, nose-thumbing-fashiony stuff aside, I once got some regular old Birkenstocks. They were horrible, like some demonic torturer had calculated the shape and ripples of the sandal bed to perfectly match up to mash and scrape all my insanely supersensitive foot spots. Granted, that's not hard to do to someone whose feet are shaped roughly like Illinois.

Posted by: Flautist | Feb 17, 2021 8:41:38 PM

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