...There’s a stereotype of the person who wears Birkenstocks,” says David Kahan, chief executive officer of the shoe company’s American division. It’s that eccentric aunt, the colleague who spends his weekends hiking, the camp counselor. Or, as Kahan puts it, “a little anti-establishment, maybe not the most attractive person.” He’s holding court at a Manhattan trade show on June 5, surrounded by rows and rows of new sandals. All week department-store buyers have haunted his booth. At a recent event, “Bloomingdale’s (M) came in with their fashion office—six twentysomething girls flitting around, picking up Birkenstocks and going, ‘So cute! So cute!’ ” he says. “Six months ago, they would have said, ‘That’s the ugliest thing I could ever wear.’ ”
Birkenstock’s rediscovery can be traced to late 2012, when Italian designer Giambattista Valli created a metallic replica adorned with studs that sold the next spring for an absurd $850. The same season, the Parisian luxury label Céline introduced a similar $895 sandal with a furry footbed—a Furkenstock, as fashion bloggers called it. This summer you’ll find men’s floral-leather pairs by Givenchy ($600), leopard-print decoys by Steve Madden ($90), and Rachel Zoe’s metallic version ($295), which she calls the Berk. (These are all legal, because it’s nearly impossible to copyright a shoe’s shape.) Fashionable shoppers who see luxury copycats in magazines and department stores aren’t all falling for the exorbitant prices, especially when an authentic Birkenstock Arizona sandal costs about $100.
Actress Billie Piper
blogger Alisa Burke
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