Interview / Fashion
Proenza Schouler adds Velcro and specchio leather to new Birkenstock collab
We speak to the global womenswear label’s design duo Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez on transforming an icon into the perfect working from home shoe.
2 Aug 2021

For almost two decades now, the luxury brand, to use McCollough and Hernandez’ own words, has offered luxury fashion for the intelligent, adult, urban woman of today. For their second capsule with Birkenstock, the duo shares how they’re inspired by their vast history and the idea of utilitarian and athletic footwear.

— We wanted to put our own touch on the classic shape by adding Velcro while keeping true to the form and function of a classic Birkenstock. We built on Birkenstock’s existing Arizona and Milano styles and produced them in polished specchio leather with our signature contrast topstitch. You will find elevated neutrals like black and ecru, but we wanted to add depth to the palette through the burgundy luggage and cobalt blue. We want these shoes to be walked in, not just around the country or on the beach, but we wanted to create something that is polished and durable enough for everyday life around the city.

What are the key styles? 

— We knew we wanted to keep the integrity of the iconic Birkenstock first and foremost, tell McCollough and Hernandez. The Birkenstock is what it is because of very specific elements that we wanted to respect and keep intact. The Arizona was a no-brainer for us. To us, that’s the most iconic of the Birkenstock shoes so we knew we wanted to use that as a starting point. We were introduced to the Milano when we saw a team member of ours was wearing a pair at the studio and we loved how it felt like less of a slide and more of a complete shoe. We kept the black and white palettes from last season but brought in this new ecru that feels very elevated, it’s more of a polished neutral. For new colors, we mixed in a cobalt blue that feels very Proenza Schouler and iconic to our brand. We also love the rustic luggage burgundy colour that feels very rich and bold but also quite neutral and that this collection is unisex — we wanted to make something that felt wearable but could also meld with different environments depending on the person. The transitional palette is super important to us, styles that can take the customer from late summer into fall but will still feel fresh when you revisit them for next summer and beyond.

Before the two brands started their first collaboration, McCollough and Hernandez tell, Birkenstock sent them a catalogue of their styles from the past 250 years or so. 

— It was mind-blowing and inspiring to understand their history. We used that as a starting point, and we were surprised that Velcro had never been done before. We both feel so much personal history with Birkenstocks. We each grew up wearing them throughout our childhoods, and as we went off to college in the 90s they felt like such an iconic part of our wardrobes, but we really see them as timeless. Innovation is very important to us as designers, but we wanted to make sure this collection still has the urban quality that is true to both brands. We have also been inspired by how fluid the Birkenstock is within both country and city life, but we wanted to take that to a different level by using polished leather. We found that that material really elevated the shoe, and allowed it to become more of an urban, city sandal. Contrast topstitching has always been a brand code for us, we use it in a lot of our ready-to-wear and accessory pieces, so adding that element really allowed us to put our stamp on them, and really made these styles feel like our own, the duo tells, adding,

— We found comfort in our Birkenstocks while working from home, but now that our social lives are filling up again, we still want to be comfortable but also want to feel polished with a bit of an elevated edge. The idea that you don’t have to choose between those two states has been our biggest source of inspiration while designing.

Birkenstock x Proenza Schouler. Photography: Collier Schorr