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Why You Keep Seeing That $76,000 Birkenstock-Birkin Bag Mash-Up in the Gossip Pages

HighLifeChannel February 23, 2021

There is only one post on Future’s Instagram page, which has 16.4 million followers. Posted February 8, its cryptic caption reads, “u see me fighting a crocodile help the crocodile.” In the photo he is wearing the sandal that has set the internet ablaze with its steep price tag and shocking origin story: the Birkinstock. 

Future’s post featured the 39th drop from MSCHF, the self-described “internet artist brand collective.” A rendition of the popular Birkenstock sandal, each shoe is made from genuine Birkin bags that have been disassembled, flattened, cut, and then put together with a Birkenstock cork footbed and rubber sole. The four different styles, made from different variations of the famed Birkin bag, cost between $34,000 and $76,000. The Birkinstock’s visibility was massive—Kylie Jenner thanked MSCHF for her pair—but MSCHF is no stranger to this kind of attention. Drake showed off a previous drop, the Jesus Shoes, on his social feeds in November 2019, and the shoes sold out in minutes. With no more than 10 pairs of Birkinstocks in existence, and customers ranging from A-list celebrities to private art dealers, “the most exclusive sandals ever made” are only available upon request.   

“We are more conceptually interested in doing a shoe that uses [the brand] as the base and us as the artist,” said Dan Greenberg, a founding member of the collective, but don’t be fooled—MSCHF is not a fashion brand. The collective exists somewhere between the art, fashion, and hypebeast spaces, with drops like Severed Spots, in which MSCHF cut up a Damien Hirst painting and sold the individual pieces, or MSCHF X, which involved combining fabrics from 10 streetwear brands into one shirt to create a super-collab. MSCHF drops a new venture on the second and fourth Mondays of each month—this week’s was Spot’s Rampage, a “quadraped robot” controlled by randomly selected livestream participants to wreak havoc on an art gallery with a paintball gun. While MSCHF never truly sticks to one medium, a common thread is the desire to tell a story—and the widespread press coverage for the Birkinstock suggests the story is getting out there. 

The MSCHF team insists the goal was not to be in the fashion or art space, but to “just do what we want to do.” With a name that “doesn’t actually stand for anything” and bimonthly drops always absent of branding, MSCHF itself is just as hard to define as the products it produces. “Our output is what we make,” said Greenberg. 

So then what does it mean to cut up a Birkin bag? Since its creation in 1984, the bag has been the ultimate social currency, favored by everyone from Cardi B to Melania Trump. “There is no other object that can basically spark so much talking,” Greenberg said. For MSCHF the shock factor was enticing: “I don’t think there is any other artist brand collective group that would ever think about cutting up a Birkin bag.”  

To cut up a Birkin is more than just the literal act of destruction; it also deconstructs the symbolism it holds. For MSCHF the Birkin is a “cultural meme,” operating more as an idea than a physical object. Calling its creation a “transubstantiation” in its manifesto alludes to a sort of transcendence. With both satire and subversion at play, one has to wonder, is it really all that serious?

The juxtaposition of exclusivity and accessibility raises another question: Is the luxury the actual bag or merely the idea of it? MSCHF views this process as a kind of evolution. Greenberg explained to me that they will look at things “that are already finished in production as materials,” such as a Damien Hirst painting (alluding to that previous drop) or a Birkin bag 

When MSCHF destroyed the Birkin, rendering it raw material, the same idea of luxury remained with its likeness, and its transformation into something new accelerated its appreciation. The acquisition of the Birkin leather turned a very basic, affordable shoe into something worth talking about, if only for its 15 minutes.

“Luxury…exists in your head,” Greenberg told me. “Every watch tells time the same, or every handbag holds the same type of stuff for the person carrying it…but [the question] is: What do you want it to say about you?” With a $76,000 price tag at the upper end, you have to wonder—maybe this combination of cultural symbolism and a willingness to reimagine the boundaries is the most covetable luxury of all. 

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