February 10, 2021 fashion

Meet the 'Birkinstock', a $76,000 shoe made from an actual Hermes Birkin handbag


Brooklyn company MSCHF has a reputation for pulling headline-grabbing stunts, and on Monday, it released what might be its most audacious project yet: Birkenstock sandals made from actual Hermes Birkin bags.

Clearly enjoying the play of words, the company, founded in 2016 by Gabriel Whaley, bought four vintage Hermes Birkin handbags, and remade them into shoes it has named Birkinstocks.

While sanctioned by neither the German shoemaker Birkenstock, nor the French luxury house Hermes, the MSCHF websites invites enquires to purchase the shoes.

Due to the very limited number made – there are supposedly just ten pairs – any would-be buyer must submit a letter of intention to the website, such as customers for the Hermes bags, with prices ranging from $34,000 to $76,000, depending on size.

Each shoe comes with a description of the Birkin bag that was destroyed to make it. For example, a white pair was made from a size 35 Hermes Nile crocodile bag that cost $35,000, while a pair in rich chocolate came from a Porosus crocodile bag, also size 35, worth $48,000.

MSCHF bought $122,500 worth of original Birkin bags for this project. After first experimenting on fake versions, it approached New York leather work companies to deconstruct and then cut up the Hermes original. Apparently appalled, the first tranche of companies all refused.

Created in 1984 for the actress Jane Birkin when she complained she couldn’t find the right bag size, the Birkin bag is today as famous for its ability to increase in value as for its shape. Regarded as a better investment than gold, Birkins accrue an average of 14 per cent in value per year, and hold records for the most expensive bags sold at auction.

Explaining the project, MSCHF asks: 'Ever mis-spell something and then realise you actually got it right? Birkinstocks are the most exclusive sandal ever made. All leather is sourced from genuine Birkin bags.'

It continues, “materials derive value from their place in history and culture. Historically we make luxury objects out of inherently valuable materials. Gold and jewels are perennial favorites, but rare speaks a language of its own. Today, Birkin bags appreciate with an average 14 per cent annual return, consistently beating the S&P 500 – by this metric, just as gold, though shiny, is no longer the basis of currency, we can look to the Birkin bag itself as the new luxury raw material par excellence.”

While the thought of destroying something so valuable will jar many, it is nothing new for MSCHF. Taking a shot at the art industry, it bought a Damien Hirst dot painting in May 2020, which it promptly cut up into the individual dots, to sell one by one. Then there was the Jesus Shoes' project, where the air midsole of Air Max 97's was filled with Holy Water. Both projects sold out in minutes.

Also in 2020, it created three, six-foot-high, hand-painted US medical bills as art pieces, before selling them to an art gallery for $73,360. In a case of life imitating art, the money was reportedly used to settle people's outstanding medical bills.

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