Allbirds Explores Plant-Based Leather to Make Shoes Even More Sustainable

Shoeography | Wednesday, March 03, 2021 | 0 comments

For many people, sustainability is more than just a passing fad. In fact, 48% of homebuyers looking at new builds cite energy efficiency as their most desired feature, while countless consumers prioritize environmental responsibility over other factors like design or price. With that in mind, popular sneaker brand Allbirds has something special in the works: the first plant-based leather alternative that's set to debut as part of their line by the end of 2021.

Shoeography: Allbirds Explores Plant-Based Leather to Make Shoes Even More Sustainable

Known for making the "world's most comfortable shoes," Allbirds was founded in 2014 but has skyrocketed to popularity in recent years. The insoles of their lightweight shoes are made from a merino wool fabric, which not only wicks away moisture and minimizes moisture but provides the brand's signature walking-on-a-cloud feel. Many Allbirds fans say that the experience is unbeatable, particularly because these shoes are machine-washable. And despite the fact that they feel like slippers, they actually hold up well to athletic activity. Although over 800,000 patients are hospitalized each year due to fall injuries, good footwear can often prevent these kinds of incidents -- and wearers often swear by these shoes, despite their high price tag.

Allbirds has arguably changed the game in terms of comfort. But now, the brand is set to make a splash in regard to sustainability, as well. The company announced a $2 million investment in a business called Natural Fiber Welding to produce the world's first all-natural leather alternative, which will be used in footwear that's set to launch this December. Made from natural rubber, vegetable oil, and other bio-ingredients, this plant-based leather is totally biodegradable. Not only does it have a 40 times lower carbon impact than leather, but it uses 17 times less carbon than plastic-derived synthetic leathers. Therefore, this material will appeal to both vegans and environmental advocates, who would otherwise be at-odds pertaining to more traditional leather alternatives.

Shoeography: Allbirds Explores Plant-Based Leather to Make Shoes Even More Sustainable

Explained Joey Zwillinger, the co-founder and CEO of Allbirds, in a statement: "For too long, fashion companies have relied on dirty synthetics and unsustainable leather, prioritizing speed and cost over the environment. Natural Fiber Welding is creating scalable, sustainable antidotes to leather, and doing so with the potential for a game-changing 98% reduction in carbon emissions. Our partnership with NFW and planned introduction of Plant Leather based on their technology is an exciting step on our journey to eradicate petroleum from the fashion industry."

Although Allbirds does still use animal products like wool in its footwear, the company has a history of embracing sustainability in its designs. Already, Allbirds has used fiber knits made from eucalyptus and EVA foam derived from sugarcane. And because these plant-based leathers are considered open-source technologies, other shoe brands could start using these materials once they're developed. That could mean more competition for Allbirds, in theory, but that's an overall win for the environment.

As it is, Allbirds seems to be doing quite well for itself. Despite the fact that 70% of business partnerships fail, there seems to be no stopping Allbirds co-founders Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger. Not only did they launch a partnership with Adidas last year, but they also managed to secure $100 million in Series E funding in the midst of the pandemic. Allbirds actually has plans to expand its retail presence at a time when many brands are closing their brick-and-mortar stores. And although public sales figures aren't listed for the company, investors purchased a stake of the company for $1.4 billion back in 2018. It's likely that the brand has done well during COVID, as the company chose not to delay or cancel store openings.

With so many people seeking comfort during the pandemic, it's no surprise that Allbirds seems to be soaring to new heights. And with an ever-growing interest in sustainable practices and products among consumers, there's no telling how high the brand could fly.

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