9 Feb 2017

The kiwi wool shoe kicking it in the US

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:33 pm on 9 February 2017

Former All Whites captain, Tim Brown is the founder of Allbirds - an environmentally friendly shoe made from merino wool. He has attracted major investors both here and in the US where the company is based.

Last year Time magazine said Allbirds were, “the world’s most comfortable shoe”.

Allbirds co-founders Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger.

Allbirds co-founders Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger. Photo: Allbirds

When it comes to shoes, comfort often has negative connotations, Brown says.

“When your old man calls you up and tells you he’s got a very comfortable pair of shoes, you automatically assume they don’t look very good.”

But WIRED magazine describes the simple design as “damn good looking”.

Brown says he dived into developing a shoe while he was still playing football.

“I had a bunch of free time and I was curious about business and brands and creating things and somehow latched on to the idea that footwear was an interesting industry.”

In hindsight, his naivete may have helped the company break new ground.

“I stumbled into this industry – the footwear industry – that hadn’t really changed in hundreds of years and asked some simple questions like ‘Why is everything made out of nasty leather and synthetics? Why are natural materials being ignored here?”

Brown hopes Allbirds will wake up the shoe industry and consumers to the value of sustainability in practise, not just theory.

“If you ask 100 people if they care about sustainability, 99 of them say yes, they do. Then they go to buy stuff, they go to buy consumer products and it goes out the window.

“I think that has to change, I think it will change. Footwear is a good place to start to try and improve because it’s so bad.”

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