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Jil Sander’s Lucie and Luke Meier Are Birkenstock’s Sale Latest Designer Collaborators

Around the Vogue offices, my colleagues are calling this the summer of skin. The name fits, as a stroll through any New York neighborhood will tell you, but I think the defining look of 2021 is actually the Birkenstock. The months we all spent at home during lockdown made late adopters of many who hadn’t yet learned to appreciate the virtues of the German shoe brand’s easy-wearing contoured cork footbeds. Birkenstock’s efforts to identify and sign on one cool designer partner after another—Rick Owens, Proenza Schouler, etc.—plays a role in their recent ubiquity as well.

The brand’s newest collaborators are Luke and Lucie Meier, who in their four years as creative directors at Jil Sander have softened the label’s strictly tailored edges, and made crafts like crochet, macramé, and raffia work a more central part of its aesthetic. Their new project with Birkenstock is part of the Jil Sander+ offering, a sort of off-the-grid answer to their more urban, work-appropriate runway clothes. Beneath their minimal wardrobes—they take their bows in black and white—the husband and wife designers are nature lovers. He grew up in Vancouver, Canada; she in the Swiss Alps, and now they spend their weekends in the Italian countryside outside of Milan.

Their new collection has an earthy vibe, and not just because the campaign was shot in the woods. The Meiers reimagined the Arizona, Milano, and Berlin with higher profiles and larger outsoles, and left the edges of the leather and suede straps raw, resulting in what they describe as a “grounded footprint.” There’s also a closed-toe sandal, the Velan, with nappa ankle straps. “To play with the silhouette was probably the most exciting thing,” said Luke, though they also experimented with the hardware. “Ours totally reshaped, and it’s also more brushed. It’s more in line with the way we do a lot of the hardware treatments on our garments in the mainline collections.

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The Birkenstock x Jil Sander shoes won’t be turning up on a Jil Sander runway when IRL shows resume in September, but they are likely to be spotted in the front row. The collection arrives at 1774.com, jilsander.com and mytheresa.com on July 1. Luke and Lucie answered some questions over Zoom below.