A Global Retail Experience in Morningside

06 OCTOBER 2018


In an industry driven by changing fads, iconic German fashion brand Birkenstock have managed to remain relevant and consistent for over two centuries. Their international acclaim has been fortified out of an unwavering dedication to the timeless art of producing quality sandals and the ability to establish a global presence as innovators in the shoe industry.

With a commitment to craftsmanship and quality materials, Birkenstock continues to garner both local and international support with over 30 brand-owned stores worldwide. In South Africa, Birkenstock’s continued growth has led the company to expand and launch an exciting new retail store in Morningside Shopping Mall, Johannesburg, under the design leadership of AB Design.

A pedestal to elevate the brand

Calling upon the prowess of AB Design – leaders in retail store design – Birkenstock handed over the baton to these local design experts to conceptualise and implement the new store, which also needed to reflect the company’s vision of a unified global retail experience.

AB Design immediately set out to bring the Birkenstock vision to life in Morningside, turning a 70 square meter environment into a tangible retail space that would echo the ideologies, materials and ambience of quality that has been an intrinsic part of the brand for decades.

Of course, Birkenstock is essentially all about their products – with comfort, style and craftsmanship at the heart of their business model. As a result, AB Design set out to put the Birkenstock product on a pedestal in this exciting new retail store. Their aim was to make use of the best quality materials and shopfitting to ensure that the product would be highlighted in the correct environment.

In keeping with the established global brand identity of Birkenstock, the design team needed to adhere to a very strict design guide with a clear emphasis on precision and superior workmanship.

According to AB Design’s Founder and Creative Director, Aidan Bennetts, the team needed to remain true to the company’s finely tuned palette of textures and finishes. The brief, therefore, contained no room for deviation and the layout needed to underpin the very values that have become an unmistakeable part of the company for over 200 years.

The choice of superior finishes

Leather and cork – materials that are often synonymous with Birkenstock – were customised throughout the store. Paired with industrial finishes and natural materials including wood and steel, the space would feel both modern and urban. Felt, another signature Birkenstock material, would be featured in multi-layered stacked display units, held together with brown leather straps.

This striking mix of materials lends itself to a masculine, urban environment – ideal as a stylish yet contemporary retail space.

Q&A: We hear from the designers…

We chatted to AB Design’s Creative Director, Aidan Bennetts, about the team’s involvement in this progressive retail store design.

Take us through the precision of materials and finishes used in the new Birkenstock store in Morningside.
“The Birkenstock shoe is made up of cork, felt and leather. The store design reflects these elegant and timeless materials. Paired with seamless white point of display and counter tops, this creates an environment that magnifies the quality, tradition and timeliness of the shoes.”

What were some of the practical considerations of this space?
“The store size is 70 square metres, perfectly adequate for a shoe store but there is no ‘extra’ or unnecessary space. The store makes the best use of the space, highlighting the product and allowing for easy flow of traffic around displays as well as around the key sales area at the point of sale.”

What has been the highlight of working on this project?
“Working with an international brand of the highest calibre has been a highlight in itself. We produced this store on time, within budget and of the highest quality. Getting those three key factors spot on and seeing the joy in the client’s face, was another highlight.”

The overall feel of this new store is one one of timeless quality and natural materials working together in the creation of a brand that continues to set itself apart as a leader in both retail and fashion.