LONDON — Allbirds, the sustainable footwear label, has closed a series C round of funding, bringing the total amount of money raised to more than $75 million to date.
The latest round, which brought in $50 million, was led by T. Rowe Price Investment Management, along with Fidelity Management & Research Company and return backer Tiger Global.
The company — which is best known for its sneakers created using wool and sugarcane soles — said that it plans on using the funds to invest in the research and development of new materials, as well as fund an international rollout.
The brand had previously secured funding from Leonardo DiCaprio and venture capital firm Maveron, among others, and had used the funds to set its international expansion plans in motion, with a pop-up in London’s Covent Garden opening later this month and a U.K. distribution facility in the works.
Allbirds cofounder Tim Brown, a former soccer player, said the rollout comes in response to consumer demand. “One of the features of our business is being direct-to-consumer, which is obviously not a new story, but it’s anchored to the idea of listening and getting feedback,” said Brown, adding that the U.K. launch also represents a homecoming of sorts. He incubated the idea for the brand while studying at the London School of Economics here.
“We initially started selling in New Zealand and the U.S. and we’ve added Australia and Canada with great success. The U.K. is a next logical step for us. There is a similar consumer in the U.K. market that has an empathy for our mission to bring sustainable material innovation to the footwear industry and the fashion industry more broadly.”
The brand is applying the same test-and-learn approach and using the temporary store as a way to home in on what the British consumers are looking for when it comes to product and material innovation.
“The ability to control our retail ecosystem, to get feedback, to listen and improve is really important to us,” said Brown, adding that wholesale is still not on the cards, even as the brand scales. “We have done some small experiments in different wholesale channels, but for the most part we have said no to that. We see our competitive advantage in our ability to really understand our customer very well. You lose some of that when you let someone get in between that relationship.”
The London store, located in the buzzy Seven Dials neighborhood, will mirror the experiential approach the brand has been adopting at its previous locations in San Francisco and SoHo, New York, with the spaces used as much as marketing and educational platforms, as they are for selling.
“Stores are both great contributors to our business, but also fantastic marketing tools. We’ve see them as a hybrid contributor because our customers are craving knowledge about our material innovation and the provenance of the things they are buying,” added Brown.
The brand has also created a limited-edition, exclusive sneaker style in dark gray for the London store and is already beginning to build a local team with key hires including former Liz Earle chief executive officer Sandeep Verma as its new U.K. managing director.