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e-commerce Editor's pick Podcast Retail sustainability

Allbirds on why sustainability is a non-negotiable

Tim Brown of Allbirds with Rachel Arthur
Tim Brown of Allbirds with Rachel Arthur

It’s not incumbent on the consumer to change behaviour, but on businesses to take responsibility, says Tim Brown, co-founder of direct-to-consumer footwear brand Allbirds, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast, by TheCurrent.

Speaking to Rachel Arthur, Brown stresses that brands need to show leadership on the issue of sustainability, and not expect their customers to be the ones to do it for them. “People don’t buy sustainability, they buy great products,” he explains.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

Brown started his career as a professional soccer player in his native New Zealand, which he says is what got him understanding the comfort needs in footwear. It was when he met co-founder Joey Zwillinger, a San Francisco-based biotech engineer and renewables expert, that the idea of creating a shoe that focused on sustainability and comfort together began to take shape.

Fast forward to 2016 and Allbirds launched its very first product, a pair of wool sneakers. Word of mouth quickly spread about the shoe’s simple design, level of comfort and sustainable use of textiles: a winning combination of good product and good storytelling that is at the core of any DTC brand’s strategy, and as a result, so attractive to the Millennial shopper.

Allbirds in London
Allbirds in London

Two years on, the brand has recently announced a new round of funding worth $50m, now valuing it at $1.4bn. With the investment, Brown says, comes the pressure to deliver on the many things they have imagined for the future, with a focus on physical retail, international expansion, and constant material innovation.

The latter has already included everything from a collection using ethically-sourced Eucalyptus fibres and a new flip-flop with a renewable sugarcane sole. The brand has also just opened up its first flagship store in London, as its first international move.

During this conversation, Brown explains how DTC brands succeed by owning every consumer touchpoint, how the narrative of retail being dead is greatly exaggerated, and why, in line with the UN’s recent report on climate change, every brand should strive to be sustainable in 2018.

This episode was recorded at Entale’s studio in London. Entale is a new podcasting app that allows you to interact with exclusive extra content like images, links and maps as you listen to your favourite podcast. You can download Entale from the iOS app store today.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
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Campaigns Editor's pick product technology

Uniqlo unveils live horizontal knitting machine at Paris exhibition

Uniqlo
Uniqlo

Uniqlo has unveiled an exhibition in Paris today, featuring a giant horizontal knitting machine, which will knit Uniqlo sweaters in front of a live audience.

Called “The Art and Science of LifeWear”, the show aims to tell the story of the textile technology behind the brand.

Held at the Jeu de Paume museum, visitors will also be able to follow the production journey of a typical Uniqlo knitwear product through a series of photographs. The show has fittingly opened just one day after the beginning of Paris Fashion Week.

At the exhibition’s opening, the brand’s founder and president, Tadashi Yanai, talked to the founding principles of the company. “Simple yet functional, high-quality and durable clothes, that’s what we aspire to offer,” he told WWD.

Uniqlo's Horizontal Knitwear Machine
Uniqlo’s Horizontal Knitwear Machine

The machine itself is a unique piece of storytelling of Uniqlo’s history. Established in 1962 by the company Shima Seiki, which works with Uniqlo for all its knitwear production, it innovated knitwear production by creating a machine that worked in a similar fashion to a 3D printer.

A company representative says the machine reduces production waste: “The horizontal knitting machine starts with one string of yarn to create the product. It does not require any different patterns, therefore there is no waste at all.”

This ties in with Uniqlo’s sustainability pledge, to which Yanai added: “Sustainability is everything. This is the most important value for mankind and that’s what we like to keep implementing through our clothing business and we are very, very serious about changing clothes, changing conventional wisdom and changing the world.”

At the end of the exhibition, visitors are able to purchase travel-themed sweaters via the museum shop. A questionnaire poses them the question: “Did this exhibition make you want to buy Uniqlo knitwear?”

The exhibition runs until Saturday, September 29.

How are you thinking about textile innovation and sustainability? We’re all about helping you build strategic integrations. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

 

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Editor's pick product

Madewell launches sustainable denim dyed with shrimp shells

Madewell 'Eco Collection'
Madewell ‘Eco Collection’

Madewell has launched a new line of sustainable denim that uses shrimp shell fibers in the dying process, significantly reducing the use of chemicals and water needed during manufacturing.

The J.Crew-owned brand is working with the Candiani mill in Italy to use its Kitotex® product, which is made with byproducts of the food industry (such as thrown away shrimp or lobster shells) to dye textiles. The exoskeleton of crustaceans contains chitosan, which is a fiber that helps bind dyes to fabric, while eliminating some of the chemicals traditionally used in the manufacturing of denim.

By using Kitotex and organic cotton also supplied by the Italian factory, Madewell’s Eco Collection is using 65% less chemicals and 75% less H2O than conventional material.

Once the fabric has been manufactured and dyed it gets sent to Saitex, the same Vietnamese factory responsible for G-Star RAW’s and Everlane’s sustainable denim. The factory recycles 98% of its water and turns manufacturing waste into bricks for affordable housing.

Madewell 'Eco Collection'
Madewell ‘Eco Collection’

For this inaugural collection, the American label is launching six styles of eco denim, from jeans to overalls. This is a part of its fall 2018 launch, which also includes the introduction of bigger sizes to 40% of its collection. Recently, J.Crew’s CEO Jim Brett has also noted that the brand will soon be launching a menswear line for the very first time, which should help push it towards its billion-dollar goal.

How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick product sustainability

The North Face launches recycled product line to support National Parks

The North Face - Bottle Source collection
The North Face – Bottle Source collection

The North Face has launched a new product line that uses recycled material sourced from three US national parks to support the sustainability within the parks themselves.

The Bottle Source collection, which includes t-shirts and tote bags made from cotton and recycled bottles, will donate $1 for every item sold, which will go back to the parks through the National Park Foundation to support upcoming sustainable projects.

So far, the Bottle Source program has collected more than 160,000lbs of plastic bottles sourced from waste at Yosemite, Grand Teton and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. Donated funds will in return go into the development of projects such as bear-proof recycling bins and reusable bottle filling stations.

“Bottle Source is a fitting next step in our materials innovation,” said James Rogers, director of sustainability at the brand. “This collection helps fund sustainability efforts in our national parks as more and more people enjoy these stunning places.”

“The North Face partnership inspires people to think about sustainability in a whole new way,” added Katherine Chesson, vice president of grants and programs at the National Park Foundation. “The Bottle Source program not only helps reduce waste, it is also a source of funding for important projects at national parks.”

This collection joins a series of other efforts the brand has been developing to improve the environmental impact of their products. Since 2016 The North Face uses only 100% down certified under the Responsible Down Standard across all product lines, while a 10-year-old partnership with bluesign has seen the brand make efforts towards helping their mills reduce their impact by using water and energy more efficiently.

Other sustainable products include the Reaxion line and the Denali jacket, both of which use recycled polyester, and the Cali wool beanie, that uses regenerative farming practices to produce wool to pull carbon into the soil.

Partnering with the right organizations has been key to the outdoor brand’s strategy of creating positive impact, as also recently seen with their announcement of a multi-year collaboration with the Girl Scouts of USA (GSUSA) to promote female empowerment.