Challenger to Watch 2017: Allbirds

The next generation sneaker?


Like many challengers, Kiwi based shoe brand Allbirds was born out of frustration. Tim Brown, an ex-New Zealand soccer player, was fed up with Nike trainers as he believed their shoes were lacking in both performance and sustainability. This spurred him on to look for a better solution - the wool runner, an entirely new product which challenges the traditional sneaker.

Brown's Kiwi heritage led him to embrace a new material abundantly available in New Zealand, ultra-fine merino wool, and by teaming up with Silicon Valley engineer, Joey Zwillinger, they have brought a comfortable, sustainable product to the market with vision to “do things differently”. The resulting design is especially comfortable, lightweight and flexible, thanks to the properties of the new fabric. While it may not be for those looking for a hardcore running shoe, the range has been dubbed a higher quality and more stylish version of Kanye West's Yeezy Boosts for those looking for an understated recreational sneaker with a sustainable edge.

Allbirds attitude to branding is “less is more”, a trend we're seeing more and more in our research and one that seems increasingly popular with consumers (who are even picking away logos from their garments). Instead, Allbirds is relying on delivering a superior product experience, and a clear commitment to sustainability, to grow their consumer base.

They are so confident in the product they even offer a thirty-day trial period - a new tactic in apparel but one that has proved successful for e-commerce challengers like Caspar or Warby Parker (one of the co-founders of Warby Parker is an investor) in other categories.

Despite having only launched in March 2016, the brand is on a solid growth trajectory, with a clear mission to create a new category of their own in footwear. Their Kickstarter campaign has proven the concept, having already raised over $7.25m in investment. All of this has left us waiting, with great anticipation, for Allbirds to make it to the UK in 2017.

Allbirds was suggested by Gareth Kay, co-founder of Chapter SF. Follow Gareth on Twitter: @GarethK