From humble beginnings as a Kickstarter campaign in 2014, Allbirds’ stylish merino wool shoes were an instant hit with outdoorsy adventurers and Silicon Valley programmers alike. One of the fastest growing shoe brands in the world, the Kiwi company sold their one millionth pair this month, just two years after launching.
Allbirds is celebrating this milestone by pushing the conventions of shoe textiles yet again, but this time with a new collection out of a less than conventional material – wood.
This latest innovation was the result of two years and US$27.5 million of funding with American investment firm, Tiger Global Management.
Their investigation into alternative materials led them to tencel lyocell, a wood pulp textile produced from ethically sourced South African Eucalyptus trees.
Allbirds wove the cellulosic fibre into a mesh material through a unique 3D-knitting process, allowing the shoes the stretch and comfort of cotton without impacting as harshly on the environment.
The new material requires only five percent of the water and one-third of the land compared to conventional shoe textiles, halving AllBirds’ carbon footprint as well as passing the strict criteria for a Forest Stewardship Council certification.
Co-founders Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger say that the new collection marks a “major moment” in their development of a brand that doesn’t sacrifice sustainability for comfort. The duo say they are “excited to challenge industry norms via innovation once again.”
While the tree-based textile is a step away from the wool approach Allbirds are known for, the new collection is more aligned than ever with their brand values.
“Our goal was never to be just a wool company,” says Brown. “Our goal was to create the world’s most sustainable shoes using innovative new materials.”
The wood collection offers two styles, ‘tree skippers’ offering a modern take on the traditional 1930’s boat shoe, and ‘tree runners’ following the classic Allbirds sneaker style. The in-sole and heel-cup are still made of merino so the soft fit remains and they're just as washable as the first version.
With a momentum that has seen a new pair of Allbirds sold every minute since it launched and plans to expand to a fourth country soon, there’s no doubt that the company's movement into plant-based footwear will prompt other large shoe brands to follow suit.
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