Very quietly, Bernd Lietke, managing director and CEO of the Royal Porcelain Manufactory KPM, and Yvonne Piu, CMO at Birkenstock, have been working together. They met at a dinner and were very sure of their cause: The hip slippers and the royal porcelain crockery, both about the same age, 1774 (Birkenstock) and 1763 (KPM), both traditional German companies, were a dream team for a collaboration. Now they only had to sell their idea to their respective companies.
To get there, four people had to meet: Lietke brought his head of design; Piu her product manager. Quickly, it was a done deal: Nothing would be more suitable for the project than the bestseller. The choice fell on KPM’s “Kurland” design, commissioned by Peter Biron, Duke of Kurland, in 1790. The "crockery set with an antique border", as it was called then, is still the favorite of KPM customers. For this reason, a special edition, Kurland Royal Noir, was introduced for the company’s 250th anniversary, which saw the originally white set recreated in black and gold. Lietke is a big fan of KPM’s porcelain, mainly because it is "produced in Germany, hand-picked and committed to tradition", yet modern and "progressive".
“Birkenstock? From the doctor’s office?”
Puns involving feet is something Bernd Lietke cannot deny himself during our conversation; probably because he clearly enjoyed the project. Even if there was little comprehension at the company at first. "Birkenstock? The ones from the doctor's office?" was the first reaction to his suggestion - not everyone at heritage company KPM had heard of the fashionable turnaround at Birkenstock. Lietke points out that there are now latte macchiato cups, a gin set with Siegfried Gin and even plates for curried sausage as part of Kurland’s portfolio. So at KPM, "we do keep up with the times".
The German shoe manufacturer, who of course has come a long way from the eco slipper image, also resorted to its classic designs. "What unites Birkenstock and KPM is their loyalty to the product. The resilience not to change good things," explains Yvonne Piu. True. When thinking of Birkenstock, model 'Arizona' comes to mind: The molded footbed made of Portuguese cork, which has not been changed since its invention, and two metal clasps. Model 'Gizeh' is almost as well known with its central toe separator. Both sandals were reissued in black leather, decorated with Kurland relief and a bead made of white porcelain with the KPM scepter on it - safe because the porcelain mix for the bead was twice-fired to create the world's hardest porcelain. The product was convincing, also because it was a special, limited edition. Thus, KPM “stuck to its last“ (Lietke), scored on the “likeability scale” and Birkenstock on “luxury and glamour” (Piu).
A win-win situation.
The limited edition comprises of two models in two styles, which are offered in a limited number of 300 each at a price of 280 euros. They were available until 9th June at luxury department store KaDeWe in Berlin; now they can be purchased via Birkenstock’s online shop.
Originally published on FashionUnited DE; translated by Simone Preuss