Allbrids co-founder Joey Zwillinger on Creating Cool and Sustainable Sneakers
When I began to do some research on Joey Zwillinger, the co-founder of the sustainable footwear brand Allbirds, it was hard not to notice the pull quote from Time magazine on the company’s website that referred to its Merino wool sneakers as “the world’s most comfortable shoe”, or when Refinery 29 said “we won’t blame you if never wear any other shoe ever again”.
Clearly, the brand that Zwillinger, a biotech engineer, created with Tim Brown, a former football player from New Zealand, has fans, including the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio who invested early in the company – raising 2.7 million dollars in seed funding before it officially launched in 2016.
Since then, Allbirds has become a shining example of sustainable style at its finest .
The breathable temperature-regulating wool used to make the company’s signature sneakers uses 60% less energy than a typical sneaker. But, the brands sustainable initiatives do not stop there –It turned to recycled plastic bottles to craft the shoe’s laces. Allbirds came up with a brand new material that they call SweetFoam, which is an eco-friendly alternative to the traditional petroleum-based shoe soles, made from sugarcane off shoots. The company’s revolutionary material is an open-source technology so that other brands can also take advantage of the carbon negative material. Oh, and even the shoe boxes the Allbirds footwear comes in are made from 90% recycled cardboard.
Currently, the company, which reportedly is now a $1.4 billion dollar business, is moving quickly to expand out from its original direct-to-consumer selling strategy. It already has 12 stores across the globe and intends to open another 20 in the next year. It has also expanded its inventory range, launching a weather-resistant collection called Mizzle that is also crafted from all-natural materials and the cleverly named Sole Mates socks that are made from TrinoTM –a new proprietary yarn that blends together the natural fibers of the brand’s Tree and Merino materials.
Without a doubt, the company is riding the crest of the current sustainable fashion wave. But after speaking with Zwillinger, there is no question that building a globally successful business isn’t his primary goal but instead, helping to build a better world for the future is.
Jessica Michault is the Senior Vice President of industry relations at GPS Radar by Launchmetrics. She is also the editor-at-large for ODDA magazine and contributes to publications like the New York Times, the Business of Fashion, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Mixte magazine.
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