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Allbirds' Tim Brown chats about his company's new shoes made from trees

Allbirds co-founder Tim Brown was in town this week to unveil the footwear company’s latest innovation ­– shoes made from eucalyptus fibre.

In keeping with brand’s ethos, a fleet of Teslas were dispatched to ferry guests in sustainable fashion to Pohutakawa House, situated at the far end of Piha, near Auckland. And what better place to launch a ‘Tree’ collection than a house that’s been built around a tree!

The new shoes – available in three colours – were displayed on plinths in the garden, garnished with eucalyptus leaves beside crystal bowls of the silky eucalyptus fibre. Orphans Kitchen (which keeps bees on the roof of its Ponsonby Road restaurant) catered the occasion with local produce, as 20 guests got to rest back in their chairs with the added comfort of a wool throw. Allbirds has founded its reputation on merino wool runners, after all.

“It’s an opportunity for us to unfurl our vision for what the brand is about,” says Brown. “From the beginning, Allbirds wasn’t really about wool. I didn’t grow up on a sheep farm. And it wasn’t about shoes – it was about sustainable material innovation.”

Customer feedback about the merino Allbirds showed that wool wasn’t as quite as good as it could be in warm weather, so they set out to try and find another material to solve this problem.

“Eucalyptus fibre is incredible for its cooling qualities and incredible softness,” says Brown. “It’s taken two years of development. First, they found a way to turn it into a yarn. Then we realised that wasn’t enough, they had to introduce a whole new manufacturing process. The uppers are knit with our proprietary yarn, where we could control the different aspects of the knit structure to improve comfort and breathability. We also found a way to use a bio-based material in the eyelet which are fused on in a process that is incredibly advanced. The shoelaces are also made out of recycled plastic bottles.”

The eucalyptus fibre also uses only five percent of the water and one-third of the land when compared to traditional footwear materials, and is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. Allbirds has also stepped up to register with B-Corporation. Nice one.

Carolyn Enting (left) and Tim Brown.

And, don’t worry. The merino Allbirds won’t be running away, the new Tree collection is just another branch of this great Kiwi/San Fran company.

Carolyn Enting is editor of Good

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