Numerous Hollywood blockbusters have been set against its grand buildings and romantic, pink and cumin facades.
Birkenstock strides beyond the humble sandal
A short drive out of its centre, some 90, pairs of Birkenstock sandals are manufactured each day, every pair passing through 17 different processes by dedicated human hands. Here years of tradition are played out by a 21st century workforce.
Nearby Bernstadt is where the buckles and rivets are certified and the uppers are cut using intelligent software. Both factories are a hub of activity staffed by German and Polish workers, who cross the bridge over the Lusatian Neisse river from the nearby city of Zgorzelec. A sandwich of jute, cork and latex, the Birkenstock sandal has inspired consternation over the decades because of its utilitarian appearance, yet today the rest of the world seems desperate to align with its core principles of sustainability, wellbeing and comfort.
Because I love them.
In an age preoccupied with the mechanisation of shopping, sex and friendship, surprisingly every single pair produced is caressed by human hand. At the factory, channels of silver foil chutes stiffen with the pressure of air pumping through them; mammoth pillows of cork are freshly ground into giant vats, only to be sucked into other sections of the factory via clear, plastic tubing.
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Giant silver drums containing 30, litres of latex thrum in the corner and will need refilling after just two and a half days. The footbeds use two different types of cork, taken from naturally renewable oak trees peeled every years in Portugal.
They are ground into two weights and mixed together with latex into a gritty gruel-like soup before being baked for several minutes in their mould; these are then turned out by workers standing at large grey tables, checking for residue, trimming and cutting the excess off before the leather upper is attached. Only three inches wide, they are stretched over lasts and left to cool to a more recognisable size.
Birkenstock is blissfully aware of its own, authentically cool status; happily outside of fashion yet loved by it. That is invaluable. Often deers will arrive with a certain idea of what they want to do but this, Baumann says, is only where the conversation begins.
Birkenstock stores in dresden
Earlier this year, deer Stefano Pilati began working on a range that will soon be released under his Random Identities label. The collection sees a twist on the classic Arizona sandal in three new variations of material and print.
It is important that partners share the same principles of quality, expertise, vision and fashion. Pilati has developed an elasticized band that goes into the buckle of its best-selling sandal. I chose the Arizona because it has to be one of the most iconic styles, how could I not choose it?
How can I not respect the legacy of a more than two-centuries-old brand such as Birkenstock? How could I not be thrilled to participate in it with Random Identities?
Altmarkt galerie, dresden
Throughout the years, the company has rejected opportunities that would have meant breaking its rules on sustainability. Share your to receive our daily digest of inspiration, escapism and de stories from around the world.
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