ALEX WOLFE
IS IT ART OR FASHION?
The South-East-London-born designer walks the fine line between playful, conceptual design and functionality, already attracting the industry’s attention with features on Vogue.com.
THE ROTTERDAM MOTO BOOT
A protective shield for turbulent times – Finding inspiration in the field of motocross Wolfe questions the idea of masculinity and creates a modern gladiator look in both, monochrome black and colorful print, dominated by red and blue tones.
INTERVIEW WITH ALEX WOLFE
Your work focuses on ideas of ‘Britishness’. How did you unite this with the German DNA that is so central to the Birkenstock brand?

The Birkenstock is an iconic shoe, it’s about practicality. The foundation was there, so it was an opportunity to really have fun with it. ‘Britishness’ is kind of subjective/abstract, but I am influenced by the world around me. I wanted to capture a playful sense of irony and a youthful masculinity.

What struck you the most when spending time in the Birkenstock archive? Was there anything about the brand that surprised you?

I was struck by Birkenstock’s extensive history, which dates back to the late 1700s. The brand has really stood the test of time. I was also struck by the precise engineering of the footbed; the shaped areas to support different parts of your foot.

You are born and raised in London. How has the city influenced your aesthetic and vision?

London is chaotic and it embraces individuality, it’s so diverse and multicultural - you can wear whatever you want. The speed of everyday life has definitely influenced my work; the idea of the man on-the-go.

You drew inspiration from Birkenstock’s orthopaedic history. Fashion can sometimes dismiss functionality as restrictive for designers, would you say that ‘function’ is, instead, an exciting creative opportunity?

Functionality is exciting, and for shoes essential. It’s about balancing those important elements with your own creative expression. The design process is more directional when you have rules to work around - it becomes more natural.

Your inspiration focused on combining a supportive shin brace with protective motocross gear. Why did these two opposing inspirations feel so relevant and how did you bring these inspirations into your design?

I like to work between the lines of something playful and something serious. Exploring that duality is very natural for me. There’s something very uncertain about that combination that maybe expresses and reflects how I see the world right now.

Your fashion garments are often playful, sometimes leaning towards something that feels wonderfully warped. Are humour and playfulness important to your work?

Yes definitely and I feel this is particularly important within menswear. Menswear needs playfulness and I like to think I can bring that, it’s about a balance of humour and seriousness. For me it’s not just about providing a product, it’s about encouraging men to dream - there’s an element of escapism there. It’s also about attitude and sensuality.

Your work considers masculinity as a key theme (as does Walter Pfeiffer’s!) What role can fashion play in shaping and influencing society’s ideas of gender?

I was so happy when I found out we would be working with Walter Pfeiffer because I’m a big fan. Fashion has a big influence on society’s ideas of gender. I want to build an identity that is inclusive and playful; it can be subtle and unexpected and it can be sometimes absurd. I think fashion has the responsibility to challenge ideas of gender in some ways, otherwise nothing would move forward.

The world is in a great time of change. What should the worlds of fashion and design do to contribute to a better future?

It’s important to support small businesses with authenticity. I think it’s important for young designers to be mindful of what value we can bring to the world. Whether you are an advocate for social or environmental change, pursuing innovation or taking creative risks.

What is it about Central Saint Martins that makes it such a special institution and such a force within the creative industries?

CSM is special because of the complete freedom we students are allowed in our projects. It is also unique because of the integration with other creative fields such as fine art, drama, set design, 3d, digital, photography, all under this one roof.

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