Former professional soccer player Tim Brown has found a new calling after retiring from captaining New Zealand’s World Cup team.
Brown started his own footwear firm AllBirds because he “had a hard time finding footwear” that he liked. It was an idea that started percolating back in 2010, and beginning today its first style called the Wool Runner will be available for sale at $95 a pair on the company’s Web site. There are four color options for women and four for men. The superfine New Zealand merino wool is about 16 microns. Produced in Italy, Brown said it is the same fabric that is used for Tom Ford and Armani suits.
Through his sponsorship deals, Brown said he had performance footwear through Nike, but nothing for everyday wear that incorporated natural materials. Doing research for two years while attending business school in London, Brown said he elected to work with wool because that’s what he “wears a lot in New Zealand.” The brand represents the midway point between performance on one end and fashion on the other, although the footwear is designed for both work and play.
Brown put up the idea on Kickstarter in 2014 to test the concept before following with a seed round of nearly $2.8 million. The round closed in November 2015, and includes as investors Lerer Hippeau and David Gilboa, the cochief executive officer of Warby Parker. Other institutional investors include Peterson Partners, Slow Ventures and Western Technology Investments.
Brown added that the shoe is natural, with an insole made from vegetable oil-based polyurethane and lined with the merino wool. The shoe is produced in South Korea. The outsole has a blend of rubber and EVA foam polymer. Leather is not used in the product, a point that Brown said helps to reduce the carbon footprint. “We made this in the greenest way that we could,” Brown said.