Historically, graduates of Central Saint Martins go on to do great things. The London design school counts Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo, and Riccardo Tisci among its alums, as well as more recent breakout star Mowalola Ogunlesi. With each new class comes new promise, which is why Birkenstock has kept a watchful eye on the latest for the past two years. In fact, the nearly 250-year-old company had such confidence in the newcomers’ talent that it partnered with the school’s BA Fashion History & Theory and MA Fashion courses, granting access to its vast archive and inviting students to reinterpret it.
For four lucky students, the partnership amounted to much more than a school project. Birkenstock also put their designs into serial production, complete with each designer’s name embossed in the brand’s signature footbed. As of this week, they’re available for purchase, ranging in price from $320 to $640. See the standouts, and get to know each up-and-comer, here.
Dingyun Zhang was a natural choice: The Chinese Zhang is a footwear designer for Yeezy and master of high-fashion comfort. You may recognize his positively enormous puffer coats, one of which just turned up in Rihanna’s latest Savage x Fenty campaign. His take on the classic Arizona is also plushy, though a little more subtle.
Unsurprisingly for a designer who’s worked with Walter Van Beirendonck and Gareth Pugh (another CSM alum), Alex Wolfe made his takes on the Moto sandal unmissable. Wolfe so fully embraced the brand’s orthopedic expertise, you might almost mistake one of them for the chicest of foot casts—almost.
The Danish designer Alecsander Rothschild first made a splash in 2017, with an award-winning collection he described as “gay darkroom meets Victoria’s Secret.” Inspired by the sculptor Constantin Brancusi, who was fond of mixing materials, Rothschild used three different types of leather to reinterpret the Bukarest.
Saskia Lenaerts aims to “disarm prejudice” with her work, which centers around deconstructing deadstock fabrics and old military garments. Inspiration often comes from research. Before CSM, at Kingston University, she studied the Namibian Herero tribe, which wears the military uniforms of their former German oppressors as an act of subversion. For her departure from deadstock, Lenaerts created Terras meant to evoke the shadow play of footprints in the sand.