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The Birkenstock Kyoto is available at Nepenthes New York, available in-store and online at

Birkenstock gained widespread prominence as the creator of the contoured insole, launching the product in 1902. Over the following decades, the company remained devoted to developing orthopedic insoles, coining the term “footbed”.

In 1963 the company transitioned to footwear and created the world’s first flexible footbed sandal, a model later dubbed the “Madrid.” Refusing to sacrifice function for fashion, the model initially sold poorly.

Ironically, the company’s refusal to cater to the fashion world led to breakthrough success. Progressive youth, who supported eco-friendly lifestyles, adopted Birkenstock sandals as a countercultural exercise. Further success came in 1966 when American tourist Margot Fraser purchased a pair while visiting Germany and convinced the company to begin exports to the United States. Rather than distribute the sandals to shoe stores, Fraser marketed the Birkenstocks to Bay Area health-food stores, where the granola-eating American hippies snatched them up.

Since the 1960s, little has changed. CEO Oliver Reichart remarks, “We’re the only ‘fashion’ brand that is not defined by fashion. We do not chase trends.” The company still focuses on quality and comfort, sourcing cork from Portugal and leather from Italy and making each pair in Germany. Despite a handful of high-profile collaborations, their goods are still a delivery system for the Birkenstock footbed, as they aim to provide ergonomic comfort to all.

The brand’s perspective aligns with the Nepenthes ethos - eschewing short-term trends in favor of a unique vision that withstands the test of time. The Kyoto model continues this legacy, updating the Zürich model by replacing the two buckle straps with a hook and loop closure. The footbed technology remains the same, featuring an anatomically shaped cork footbed.

Take home a pair of Kyotos, and experience the legacy of Birkenstock’s passion for comfort.