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Allbirds Moves in on Nike’s Home Turf

Allbirds put down roots in America’s hotbed of sneaker-making talent.

The San Francisco company known for sustainability focused footwear recently formalized its footprint in Portland, Ore., where the “majority” of its marketing, design and development experts is based, an Allbirds spokesperson confirmed last week. The product hub that opened in the spring “invite[s] world-class talent to our brand,” the rep added, while offering “greater agility and a centralized approach” to producing goods that can go head-to-head with the best of the best.

The Portland office is already home to about 22 employees, including former Adidas exec Kate Ridley, Allbirds’ chief brand officer since January. Additional Adidas alumni include Spencer Watts, director of concepts and surface design. The carbon-cutting company recently lured product designer Cody Galvin from Nike, which also saw onetime store designer Marko Kennelly Ullman start as Allbirds’ creative director for retail less than a year ago. Vice president of product design Ashley Comeaux too left a role in footwear design at Nike to grow Allbirds’ product chops. Aurelio Martinez Kalifa, a merchandising director, previously rose through the ranks at the Jordan brand owner.

The resale newbie aims to grow its Portland headcount as it “invest[s] in our product and innovation teams,” the spokesperson added.

The Adidas collaborator’s newly established presence in Portland could exacerbate the brain drain underway at Beaverton-based Nike just 20 minutes down the road. The Swoosh brand saw dozens of “high-level” executives decamp in 2021 alone, with reports framing the exodus as losing “1,000 years of experience.”

Allbirds, for its part, is trying to catch up to the big boys.

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The new office arrives as the B Corp taps the brakes on hiring after cutting nearly two dozen employees and seeing second-quarter losses widen to $29.4 million from $7.6 million a year earlier. Though Allbirds is liquidating $11.6 million in first-generation “end-of-life” apparel, co-founder and co-CEO Tim Brown believes the category “has got a really important role to play” as it complements consumers’ footwear purchases and could help drive bigger basket sizes and average order value.

Meanwhile, Allbirds on Tuesday appointed Ann Freeman to its board, effectively immediately. Using the last name Hebert at the time, the longtime industry executive left her position as Nike’s vice president and general manager of North America last year under a cloud of suspicion after an investigation outed improprieties around her son’s sneaker resale business, which he funded at least in part with her credit card.

In a statement, Freemans said she found Allbirds’ “no compromise approach to footwear and apparel focused on style, comfort and sustainability” appealing.

Allbirds co-founding co-CEO Joey Zwillinger cited the former Nike veteran’s “wealth of knowledge, experience, and leadership.”

“We believe her strong track record of leading diverse teams and solving complex problems within the world’s largest footwear company will be a tremendous benefit to our company as we continue to scale and gain momentum with consumers around the world,” he added.