Growing up in the British countryside, Faye Toogood would run around exploring the land in her earliest pairs of Birkenstock. A fan of the brand ever since, now sees the UK designer team-up with the German footwear brand for a new collaborative adventure.
Through the Toogood studio’s unique artisanal craft, Birkenstock’s key shapes and silhouettes have been deconstructed and reimagined into bold new shapes via a process formed around handmade sculptures made in-house using cardboard, Sellotape and old scraps of canvas. Furthering Toogood’s personal influences, found objects inspired by a childhood collecting stones and discarded treasure inspire the collaboration’s sandal names: The Mudlark, The Beachcomber and The Forager (“some of the earliest excavated objects were actually sandals”, Toogood tells us below).
As a design studio working across numerous practices and mediums, Toogood conclude their collaboration with a specially-crafted bed. Applying Birkenstock’s comfort and health-promoting principles to Toogood’s furniture design, the result is a super-luxe piece built using padded layers of canvas and leather upholstery sat on a cork base.
Alex James Taylor: What was it about working with Birkenstock that appealed to you?
Faye Toogood: As a brand, Birkenstock is known for comfort and timeless, unmistakable shapes – all qualities I strive for in my own practice. I’ve been a long-time fan of their products and recognised that we shared their key values, so the partnership was very natural. When I was introduced to Oliver Reichert, the CEO of Birkenstock, we connected immediately on so many beliefs, from high-quality materials to manufacture. Being able to expand the collaboration beyond shoes to include clothing and a bed brought a holistic approach to the project, allowing all three strands of the collaboration to be truly united in their approach and outcome – each one representing the combined identities of two recognisable brands.
AJT: What’s your own personal relationship with Birkenstock?
FT: Birkenstocks have been part of my life from a young age. My sister, Erica, and I wore them growing up in the English countryside, as did my parents. My personal connection made it even more exciting to be designing with them! On a creative level, I admire Birkenstock’s transparency of manufacture and their commitment to work with natural and sustainable materials. The shoes, ready-to-wear collection and the bed have all been designed with longevity in mind, using the best quality materials making them perfect for everyday use.
“…we’ve always approached our fashion collections in the same way as furniture, interiors or homeware, with materiality, sculpture and longevity at the core.”
AJT: Tell me more about how the bed came about.
FT: The shoe collection stemmed from comfort and sculptural forms – which naturally flowed into the design of the bed. Just as Birkenstock’s trademark cork footbed is the foundation of the shoe collection, their expertly crafted sleep system is intrinsic to this bed. We created puffy layers of canvas and leather upholstery creating a soft form, which sits on a cork base with the signature Birkenstock natural mattress and slatted frame incorporated within. The headboard and top surround are upholstered in cream leather, embracing its natural texture. All the signature materials of the project; cork, leather and canvas are brought together in this one piece.
AJT: Within the Toogood studio, how do fashion and furniture crossover?
FY: I’ve always wanted to work across disciplines, so my approach is very holistic. I love how an idea flows from fashion to shoes, through to art and furniture. When I first set up the studio, I saw there were blurred lines between disciplines, so we’ve always approached our fashion collections in the same way as furniture, interiors or homeware, with materiality, sculpture and longevity at the core. We did the same with Birkenstock by stripping each type of product – be it a shoe, bed or shirt – down to its purest essence. This way each one is laid bare in its true form and function, giving way to a simple and honest design.
“I am fascinated by the thought that, alongside pottery vases and sculptures, some of the earliest excavated objects were actually sandals.”
AJT: How was the process of working with Birkenstock?
FT: We began using Birkenstock’s classic Arizona and Zürich patterns, which we re-cut into new contours and shapes using cardboard, Sellotape and old scraps of canvas – like the way we’d approach a new piece of furniture. These maquettes progressed to use more refined materials like suede, felt and canvas that complemented Birkenstock’s core ingredients of high-quality leather and cork. Gradually we began refining the puffy, sculptural shapes with Birkenstock’s product team to create the Forager, Mudlark and Beachcomber sandals. I also wanted the colour palette to follow our accompanying ready-to-wear collection: monochrome black and cream, with a pop of pollen yellow.
AJT: The collection references ancient found objects – can you talk us through where this came from and how it translates to the collection?
FT: Growing up in the English countryside, my family and I spent a lot of time outside, foraging and collecting stones and other objects. This idea of ‘found objects’ has stayed with me. I am fascinated by the thought that, alongside pottery vases and sculptures, some of the earliest excavated objects were actually sandals. Our collection with Birkenstock draws on the idea that the sandals themselves become sculptural objects. As a final thread of narrative, the sandal names – The Mudlark, The Beachcomber and The Forager – are all references to the idea of searching, finding and collecting.