Maker of insanely popular shoes moves into eco-friendly clothing
Posted October 20, 2020 2:04 p.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2020 7:53 p.m. EDT
CNN — If you've ever wanted to wear a T-shirt made of discarded crab shells, now's your chance.
Allbirds — the footwear company known for making shoes from sustainable materials such as merino wool and sugarcane waste — is launching its first apparel line.
The collection, for men and women, includes a T-shirt made of a new material Allbirds calls "XO," a fiber derived from the discarded shells of marine life, which the company says is the "second most abundant biopolymer on Earth." It also includes sweaters made from "responsibly sourced" merino wool and a puffer jacket made from a blend of merino wool, recycled polyester and Tencel (a fiber harvested from natural materials rather than oil-based synthetics).
The move into this new category marks a big jump for Allbirds, which shot to success — becoming a billion-dollar unicorn in 2018 — thanks to a growing wave of awareness among consumers of the environmental impact of fast fashion. It has also garnered huge popularity within the Silicon Valley tech community.
The company, which is privately owned, is a certified B Corp, meaning it meets stringent standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency in all aspects of the production process. AllBirds has 22 stores in the United States, Europe, China and New Zealand but does much of its sales on line.
"From the start, we knew our vision of evolved environmentalism was broader than just shoes," Allbirds said in a release Tuesday.
"As the chasm between disposable fast fashion and utilitarian basics has grown the fashion industry has clung to the same outdated methods that continue to drive excessive carbon emissions, soil depletion and synthetic waste ... Allbirds apparel not only feels better, performs better and looks better, it's also better for the planet."
The environmental cost of the fashion industry is huge, generating around 20% of wastewater and 10% of carbon emissions globally, according to the United Nations.
While the most sustainable option might be to buy no new clothes at all, Allbirds offers consumers a more reasonable middle ground.
Its products are made with renewable, natural materials, and its website and marketing materials provide consumers with information they need to make more sustainable choices. The "XO" material in the new Allbirds T-shirts, for example, helps the clothing stay fresher longer, requiring less frequent washes, according to the company.
And while Allbirds offsets emissions to be carbon-neutral, each piece of clothing comes with a carbon emissions score so consumers can better understand the environmental footprint of their shopping habits.
Buying sustainably made products may mean paying a premium, though. Allbirds T-shirts cost $48, sweaters start at $135 and the puffer jacket is $250 — the prices are the same for both the men's and women's offerings.