Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
The new sandals named the Forager, the Mudlark, and the Beachcomber, reimagine the iconic Birkenstock in sculptural silhouettes of black, white, grey, and yellow in canvas, felt, and suede. Toogood shared with Whitewall recently how the designs were inspired by the idea of ancient artifacts becoming sculptural objects.
WHITEWALL: What was the starting point for this collaboration?
FAYE TOOGOOD: My sister, Erica, and I both wore Birkenstocks growing up. Even now, we have more Birkenstocks than people in my house! When I was introduced to Oliver Reichert, the CEO of Birkenstock, I found we shared so many values from high quality materials to manufacture. The partnership was very natural—I admire Birkenstock’s commitment to working with high quality natural and sustainable materials, and that they design with longevity in mind. Pretty quickly after the initial discussion we both wanted to expand the project beyond shoes to include clothing and a bed, allowing a truly holistic approach to the creative collaboration.
This idea of “found objects” fascinated me, that excavated objects could be transformed into works of art. Alongside pottery and tools, some of the earliest found man-made artifacts are actually sandals. Our collaboration with Birkenstock was influenced by this idea of ancient artifacts actually becoming sculptural objects. As a final element of narrative, the themes of discovering, searching, and collecting are realized in the sandal names: The Mudlark, The Beachcomber, and The Forager.
WW: When designing footwear, what elements are essential for you?
FT: It's essential that I can bring something recognizably Toogood to the design, and for me, that is through material and form. At the same time, I want the footwear to appeal to men and women of all ages, in the same way, my sister Erica and I set out to do with the Toogood clothing collection.
WW: How did you want to approach the iconic Birkenstock shape?
FT: We knew we had to be very careful when talking about recutting them - being so iconic, changing a Birkenstock sandal is like changing the shape of a wheel! We wanted to create something different, but that still connected back to the original, practical shape.
WW: The collection was inspired by the idea of ancient found objects. How did that influence the materials you gravitated towards?
FT: Alongside soft nappa leather and suede, we gravitated towards materials that we typically use in the studio—canvas and felt. Both are utilitarian and sculptural and have been used many times in Toogood’s clothing collections, installations and furniture pieces. All these natural materials have a raw, elemental and timeless feel about them—they have been used for shoes and clothing for centuries.
WW: And the color choice?
FT: It’s an essential color palette of black, white and grey. We referenced back to the first Toogood clothing collection - a series of 8 unisex coats in black and white canvas which focused the attention on the cut and shape of the pieces. The only shot of bright colour is a wonderful pollen yellow—the colour of street markings! So in its own way, another utilitarian colour.
WW: Of the three styles created, The Forager, The Mudlark, and The Beachcomber, which are you partial to today?
FT: A very difficult choice! I love the puffy Beachcomber—it’s extra soft and friendly to wear.