The Wool Press: Where we shine the spotlight on a Wool Product or Producer to celebrate wool as an environmentally friendly, innovative, humane and versatile natural fibre of now and the future. Today we talk to Tim Brown, former captain of the All Whites and founder of the worlds most comfortable shoes, Allbirds : The hugely popular runners and loungers made from New Zealand Merino.
1. What made you choose NZ Merino as a textile when you created All Birds?
We wanted to create the world's most comfortable shoe so it made sense that we would use the world's finest fibre to achieve that goal. In NZ Merino and their ZQ certification, we found a partner that is the gold standard in the delivery of sustainable and ethically sourced merino and we haven't looked back since.
2. Despite being based in San Francisco, the All Birds marketing has a distinct Kiwi vibe; is that deliberate?
It is. While we're based in San Francisco this is very much a NZ story in the sense the idea was born here, one of the founders – me – is from Wellington, and we are innovating with wool from the South Island. From a brand point of view, the idea of a brand is tackling a serious topic and on a mission to use better, more sustainable materials but doing that without taking themselves too seriously seems quintessentially kiwi too.
3. Do you feel like that wool is growing in popularity with the general public as a more ethical and environmentally friendly choice over petroleum based products?
Yes. Our team was able to head back to NZ and to the SouthIsland and to meet some of the NZM growers and the message very much was keep doing what you're doing. People are getting it more and more, particularly in the US where we are, and the future is bright. I personally feel like the wool industry has done a really poor job over the last several decades marketing itself but it feels like we are about to enter another golden age for the "miracle fibre".
4. How do you think New Zealand can improve as far as marketing wool as a more ethically and environmentally friendly choice on the global stage?
Keep it simple. Focus on a singular attribute in each category. Focus on the product benefit and not technical jargon. In our case it is comfort plan and simple. From there, once people understand, you can peel back the layers of the onion and talk microns and moisture wicking. People want a single reason to believe that you have a product that can solve an unmet need for them. I believe in many cases we know about and many we don't wool can win.
5. Do you think that the todays consumer cares more about connecting with the origin and manufacture of the products they purchase than in the past?
Yes, but only after they have the best product. Solve their need and then tell them all the other good things about it after they've purchased. Sustainability is not a product benefit, 17 microns and the South Island high country origin will not in of itself help you win, but they can be great secondary messages after you've solved the primary consumer problem. Never lose sight of that.