Who wears Allbirds?
Over the past couple of years, Silicon Valley types have been associated with the footwear brand, which was founded in 2016 and is based in San Francisco. And in New York, its biggest market, the sneakers have become ubiquitous with a younger demographic that’s interested in comfort, sustainability and basic-looking shoes that don’t draw too much attention, which was exactly what Tim Brown intended.
Brown, a former professional soccer player from New Zealand who cofounded Allbirds, wanted to create a minimal sneaker that was free from logos and flourishes and he connected with Joey Zwillinger, who has a background in biotech, to make it environmentally friendly—the shoes are made from wool or eucalyptus tree fiber and have a sugarcane sole.
“We tend to skew toward customers in their 20s and 30s who live in big cities. That said, one of the great things about Allbirds is how they’ve appealed to so many different kinds of people,” said Julie Channing, chief marketing officer. “Comfort is such a universal need and our shoes are so simple in design that we really see people of all ages and in all regions across the country embracing our products and our brand.”
Some might say that Allbirds represents the opposite of what fashion-inclined or streetwear consumers want from their footwear, but last week the company partnered with a couple of media platforms in New York that speak to that very customer.
First up was a collaboration with Paper Magazine and designer Maria Cornejo, who designed a women’s wear collection made from Allbirds ZQ-certified superfine merino wool that was styled with its Wool Runners. Channing said the goal was to show the shoes in a different context. Following that was an event with Complex, one of its largest campaigns to date, that took place at a gallery in the Lower East Side with activations highlighting sustainability. Channing said the mission of that event was to make sustainability feel more tangible and human.
But it’s also safe to assume that by working with Complex, Allbirds, like most brands, is interested in aligning with young, streetwear shoppers who look to sneakers to belong, stand out or resell. When asked if this customer is also an Allbirds customer, Channing reiterated that its footwear is meant to be for everyone.
“Our customer is anyone who appreciates the importance of simple design and comfort in the things they wear, and who also respects brands who are trying to make a positive impact through business,” said Channing. “Our goal as a company has always been to make really simple products that are uninfluenced by trends. Our shoes are somewhat of a blank canvas, and it’s been great to see how people all over the world have incorporated Allbirds into their sense of style and worn them in so many different ways.”
Whether the shoes win over this audience or not doesn’t seem to matter. The company, which calls actor Leonardo DiCaprio and NBA player Andre Iguodala investors, is currently valued at $1.4 billion. Channing said the growth strategy includes opening more retail stores in the U.S. and internationally, but staying away from wholesale in order to maintain reasonable price points. Currently, the brand has three stores: in San Francisco, New York and London.
Brown previously told WWD that in its first two years of business—meaning just with its wool product line—it has sold in excess of 1 million pairs of shoes and has been profitable since launch.