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Allbirds Spins Sea Shells Into Fashion

Allbirds apparel is here—and there’s no trace of cotton in the T-shirts that are core to the eco-minded shoe startup’s first real stab at fashion that’s not meant for the feet.

Just weeks after raising $100 million and flirting with a foray into underwear over the summer, Allbirds on Tuesday launched a dual-gender collection of cardigans, sweaters and Ts made with the sort of responsible ingredient cocktail the industry has come to expect from the San Francisco-based innovator. And with the events of 2020 casting fashion’s failings into starkly unflattering relief, “it’s become more clear than ever that the most modern way of life is to live one closer to nature,” Allbirds said.

“The unmatched challenges of 2020 have shown us that we all must stand for something bigger than ourselves, and that when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the only choice we have is to come together to create new solutions,” said co-founding co-CEO Tim Brown. “We hope that we can play a small role in bringing change to the fashion industry and beyond by showing that there is a different, more thoughtful way to create clothing consumers love.”

The brand says its vision was never limited to simply making shoes that tread lightly on the environment. Despite the gaping “chasm between disposable fast fashion and utilitarian basics,” fashion, Allbirds says, “has clung to the same outdated methods that continue to drive excessive carbon emissions, soil depletion and synthetic waste.”

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So it challenged itself to do one better.

Allbirds hails its TrinoXO T-shirt as “your new favorite.” The secret, it says, lies in the chitosan-rich shells left behind by marine life—the second most abundant biopolymer on Earth, it claims—that it conjures into its XO material, whose stay-fresh properties sidestep the need for chemical odor-fighting additives like silver and zinc. Tencel (65 percent) and merino wool (30 percent) round out the T-shirt.

The puffer jacket, a staple piece for cold climates, gets the eco and “animal-friendly” treatment, too. Uniting “expressive design and environmental responsibility,” the Allbirds Trino Puffer fills a merino wool and Tencel shell with Tencel and recycled polyester, which the brands labels an “innovative and effective down-alternative.”

Allbirds sweaters and cardigans, meanwhile, feature the signature wool that propelled its footwear to popularity. Made from “superfine” and “responsibly sourced” New Zealand merino wool certified by ethical wool supplier ZQ, the knitwear pieces offer the brand’s “unique take on minimalism,” Allbirds says.

Labels for each garment in the apparel collection detail its carbon footprint—a first, Allbirds claims, and a much-needed step toward showing shoppers the eco impact of what they choose to wear.

It’s up to consumers to decide if Allbirds apparel meets their demand for sustainable fashion. Survey after survey after survey documents consumers’ unwavering thirst for garb that’s good for people, planet and their personal style. And though brands are struggling just to keep their heads above Covid-19’s churning waters, now is not the time to forsake sustainability in a bid to cut costs, experts say.

Joey Zwillinger, who along with Brown founded the label and also serves in the chief executive role, says Allbirds has always rallied against climate change—“the biggest threat to humanity’s future.”

“Natural materials have phenomenal potential, and when unlocked through scientific innovation, can create better products that are also better for the planet,” he added. “This first collection of Allbirds apparel is an example of the magic that is possible when you mix world-class sustainability with elevated apparel design.”

Sizes for men’s and women’s apparel span XS to XXXL, offering an opportunity for consumers outside of the straight-size range to acquire eco-friendly fashion. T-shirts come in the “classic” color ways of black, white and gray, with forest, orchid and sungold available for a limited time. Puffers are sold in charcoal and limited-edition forest green with a yellow lining. Sweaters are offered in gray, black and limited-edition orchid. Charcoal and limited-edition nebula—an orchid and yellow combination—are the options for the cardigan. Prices start at $48 for the T-shirt and top out at $250 for a puffer jacket.

This first apparel drop might be just the beginning of what Allbirds has in store for a clothing sector in desperate need of change.

“Launching Apparel is a huge step forward in our journey to bring carbon-conscious options that don’t compromise style or quality to more closets around the world,” Brown said, describing the venture into garments as “a natural evolution of our founding tenets—to make products that feel great, embody our modern minimalist design philosophy, and are on the forefront of sustainable material innovation.”

“We’re very proud of this initial collection,” he added, “and look forward to continuing to innovate in the apparel space, as we’ve done with footwear over the last five years.”