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Startup Works With Woolmark to Bring Wool Footwear Trend to India

Part-phenomenon, part-shoe, the Allbirds wool shoe model has officially gone global.

Indian startup Neeman’s, in collaboration with Woolmark, has introduced its first line of merino wool footwear for men, a trend that seems to be catching on.

Based in Hyderabad, India—a sprawling city center in the south—Neeman’s is more than just product to its founder Taran Chhabra. It’s a company with roots in Great Britain, where its shoes were designed, and New Jersey, where Chhabra formed the idea for Neeman’s while working in business analytics. Now, Australia joins the mix, with the merino wool for Neeman’s uppers coming from Australian Woolmark wool.

Neeman’s also takes quite a bit from Allbirds, the wildly successful San Francisco-based startup whose very existence stems from the “magical qualities of merino wool.” However, in India, a region seeking to transition to a more sustainable economy, Neeman’s might be a welcome step toward eco-friendly footwear.

Chhabra has stated he didn’t see much competition in the field of eco-footwear when he founded the company this past March. Now he seeks to capitalize on that opening by bringing his wool shoe to India, which he says is the first in the region that incorporates the natural fiber.

“Neeman’s is here to create shoes that look good, feel good and are good for the planet,” Chhabra said in announcing the official launch. “We wanted to move away from the norm of using synthetic fibers in shoes to natural sources to preserve the environment and bring truly comfortable shoes in India.”

Using non-mulesed wool from Woolmark is not the only step Neeman’s is taking to make its shoe one of the most eco-friendly in India, according to Chhabra. Each insole is made from recycled rubber and castor bean oil to help reduce its carbon footprint, and every shoebox is sourced from 85 percent recycled wastepaper.

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According to Amar Preet, co-founder and director of Neeman’s, the decision to go sustainable came from a desire to harness the environmental enthusiasm of other sectors and bring that to footwear.

“The question we were pondering with is if we look for better, nutritional and organic food, why don’t we look for similar qualities in our shoes,” Preet said. “This led us to the path of natural sources and merino wool is the one we selected because of all its amazing benefits.”

The initial collection possesses many of the same characteristics that have made the Allbirds Wool Runner so popular, such as its lightweight design and emphasis on sock-free woolen comfort. Neeman’s, however, is offering a jogger, sneaker and loafer from the beginning. Shoes start at 8,000 INR (just over $100) per pair and can be found on Neeman’s website.