Allbirds Launches Eco-Friendly Clothing Line

The shoe company's new capsule collection includes an innovative odor-fighting fabric made from leftover crab shells.

Allbirds XO t-shirt
Allbirds' new women's TrinoXO tee in (in sungold).

Allbirds (used with permission)

Allbirds, maker of the hugely popular merino wool sneakers that everyone seems to be wearing these days, has announced that it's expanding into apparel. Its first-ever clothing capsule launched with four items – a T-shirt made from a merino-eucalyptus blend, a wool puffer jacket, and two styles of wool sweater (a cardigan and a pull-over). 

If apparel seems like a surprising direction for a company that's done so well with shoes, it's exactly what the founders intended to do from the beginning. Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger told Vogue,

"We knew we wanted to be a real brand, and had this vision that we’d be an innovation company first, and a product company second. And our products would solve problems for people in a natural way, and show the world that you don’t have to compromise on the planet for amazing products."

The products are certainly innovative. Years of research have gone into developing materials that align with Allbirds' ongoing commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.

For example, the T-shirt (for both men and women) is infused with XO, an antimicrobial treatment made from ground-up crab shells that fights odor and increases the number of wears between washes. It's similar to what nanosilver technology does, but minus the need to extract virgin resources. The name "XO" is a play on exoskeleton, since the shells – a byproduct of the seafood industry – are ground up and spun into a fiber that's woven right into the fabric.

The wool puffer has a soft merino wool-Tencel exterior with a fluorine-free Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish to keep dry. It's insulated with Tencel and recycled polyester. As Brown and Zwillinger explained, the process of developing this puffer opened their eyes to the natural-vs-synthetic material debate:

"Certain natural materials actually have a higher carbon impact than recycled plastic. But through this journey with apparel, we’ve come to the conclusion that using plastic [in any form] is a fool’s errand. It’s never going to get us where we need to be, and there’s always going to be a net-positive carbon impact. But the opposite can be true for natural materials."
Charcoal Puffer Jacket
Allbirds Puffer Jacket in charcoal.

Allbirds (used with permission)

The two sweaters are made from responsibly-sourced New Zealand merino wool (the same material in Allbirds sneakers). They're described as "an extension of Allbirds’s unique take on minimalism – slightly oversized with a textured knit structure and distinctive design details [that will have you] reaching for these sweaters all winter long."

Especially eye-catching is the fact that each product is labeled with its carbon footprint. This is an initiative that Allbirds started in April for all products, and it gives customers a new reference point when choosing what to buy – "like a nutrition label for your closet." The T-shirt, for example, has a carbon footprint of 6.3 kg CO2e, the wool cardigan 22.4 kg CO2e, and the puffer jacket 20.9 kg CO2e. Allbirds offsets these emissions, but wants shoppers to know what the starting point was.

Allbirds Men's Natural Grey Jumper
Allbirds' Men's Natural Gray Jumper.

Allbirds (used with permission)

The new products are simple, basic, gender-neutral. There are no trendy cuts or colors. This is deliberate, as the company wants its highly-engineered fabrics to get as much use as possible. In Brown's words, "When you’re innovating at the yarn level like this, it takes an enormous amount of time. So we tried to focus on the key items that are important for your day-to-day, and bring relentless design iteration and focus. There’s a lot of detail in these very, very simple things."