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Allbirds and Chinatown Market Upcycle Scraps Into Auctionable Fashion

A recent collaboration from sustainable Bay Area startup Allbirds augments the company’s practical, earth-friendly inputs with an avant-garde twist.

Last week, the brand, along with Los Angeles streetwear label Chinatown Market, kicked off a multi-dimensional partnership made to inspire the next generation of designers to take on a more responsible role when creating consumer products.

On Friday, the brands launched their working relationship with a truly unorthodox collection of one-of-a-kind pieces by artist Nicole McLaughlin, who crafted vests, shoes, bags and even a lawn chair using upcycled merino wool and tree-based scraps from Allbirds factories and motifs from Chinatown Market’s signature designs.

McLaughlin, who has worked on projects for luxury brands, New York trendsetters and footwear stalwarts like Prada, Opening Ceremony and Puma, created seven pieces that were auctioned off between Friday and Monday.

A pair of "pocket slippers," designed with upcycled Allbirds textiles and other design elements, sold for $252.
A pair of “pocket slippers,” designed with upcycled Allbirds textiles and other design elements, sold for $252. Allbirds

A pair of “pocket slippers,” made from recognizable parts and pieces of Allbirds’ iconic minimalist sneakers, along with a magpie-like assortment of odds and ends from McLaughlin’s apartment, sold for $252. Meanwhile, the foldable chair, made from a patchwork of fabrics and emblazoned with Chinatown’s name, sold for $255.

All of the other items in the collection, including a vest made from shoe uppers, multiple shoulder bags and a top with two collapsible basketball hoops attached to its front, sold to bidders on Monday.

The proceeds from the sales will be donated to the Okra Project, which helps underserved Black transgender people by bringing them home-cooked healthy meals and resources, and the Sunrise Movement, which advocates for political action against climate change.

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The partnership will continue, Allbirds said in a statement, with a five-episode miniseries on Instagram’s IGTV, to be found on both brands’ accounts. The content will feature digital sessions on sustainable design and DIY methods, led by creatives from around the globe.

The "shoe vest," made with repurposed Allbirds shoe uppers, sold for $158.
The “shoe vest,” made with repurposed Allbirds shoe uppers, sold for $158. Allbirds

The list of sessions was announced on Allbirds’ Instagram on Monday, beginning the same day with a bundle dyeing workshop with London’s Eco Dye Studio. The digital events will continue daily through Friday, and will include health and fitness classes, a textile workshop, a conversation about sustainable fashion, and instruction on how to receive maximum health benefits from house plants.

Following the culmination of the series, consumers will have the opportunity to submit their projects for consideration by a panel of judges. Winners will receive access to a two-week digital mentorship session from the Allbirds and Chinatown Market teams, which will feature expertise about material selection and sustainability practices, and will feature guidance from executive leadership.

The Chinatown Market partnership comes on the heels of Allbirds’ collaborative relationship with athletic footwear powerhouse Adidas, announced in May. The sustainability-focused partnership was launched with the goal of creating a performance shoe with the lowest carbon emissions on the market.

At the time, the German company said it would work with Allbirds to revamp its entire footwear supply chain with an eye toward cutting carbon.