Introducing our fifth installment of 7x7's Style Council 2017, our annual look at the trendsetters and style mavens of the Bay Area worlds of fashion, beauty and design. Check back Friday September 29th for the final profile in this year's stylish series.
It's hard to believe that Allbirds is still a mere babe in the
woods city. At just 18-months-old, the maker of soft (like, otherworldly soft) and comfortable wool shoes already feels like an iconic San Francisco brand.
Co-founder, native New Zealander and former soccer pro Tim Brown, 36, couldn't be more pleased with the current state of affairs of his Jackson Square startup. In less than two years, he and co-founder Joey Zwillinger have watched their $95 fuzzy kicks for men and women become the darling of minimalist tootsies from Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley.
While discussing all things Allbirds, from its Kickstarter beginnings to its current overflowing coffers ($27.5 million thanks to $17.5 million in new Series B funding), the laid-back and affable Brown (that accent!) sounds like a guy who always knew success would come yet wants to pinch himself now that it's happening. "It has been a big 18 months for us!" he beams.
"We launched our second shoe style, the Wool Lounger, in April, which our customers have been very excited about," says Brown. (The lace-up Wool Runner is the OG.) "And, of course, opening the first Allbirds shop under our offices in Hotaling Alley has been a great part of the journey. It has been incredible to see this grow from just Joey and I a short time ago to a team of around 50 folks committed to finding better ways to make shoes. The best bit is it feels like we're just getting started."
So what is it about an understated ZQ-certified merino wool shoe—made for sporting sans socks—that has garnered so many steadfast devotees?
"Look, it's the combination of so many little things done well," Brown explains. "Big picture: I think Allbirds is filling a real void in the footwear industry. With the rising popularity of casual footwear, there has been a simultaneous decline in attention to detail, with brands often hiding behind flashy logos and wild colors. On a more granular level, we've focused maniacally on natural material innovation, on endlessly refining our silhouettes and designs, and of caring deeply about every stage of the customer experience. As is always the case in my experience with success, it all comes down to lots of hard work."
And there's more hard work to come. Although playing coy on the details, Brown did allow that new stores are very much in the plan; store number two recently opened in New York's SoHo. New collabs, children's styles and more limited-edition colors are also on tap, but the particulars will have to remain a "mystery" a little longer, Brown teases.
What he would divulge: Allbirds is doubling down on what it has started—that is continuing to be driven by natural-material innovation. "Our perspective is the footwear category has overlooked a number of materials that can be both better for the environment and make better products. We've only scratched the surface on what can be done and we hope it can lead to a greater consideration of how things are made and what they are made out of. I can't tell you how excited we are about the months and years to come."
7x7: Describe your personal style.
Tim Brown: "It may be something like a uniform—khaki or denim, lots of white, grey and navy, occasionally a little black. Natural materials almost all the time. Never any logos! Always looking for brands that can elevate a classic item that fits within my parameters. I keep it really simple."
7x7: There's a fire. What do you grab from your closet?
TB: I really love my Levi's Made & Crafted jeans so I would throw them on. I am also a fan of the bag brand Want Les Essentials, so I would probably grab my navy backpack from them and get out quick."
7x7: Local retail therapy...
TB: "Jackson Square is such an amazing place to have our offices and store. Nearby are Aesop and A.P.C., which are two of my favorite brands."
7x7: Who are some of your favorite designers?
TB: "I trained as a graphic designer so I am drawn to greats in that field like Milton Glaser, Paul Rand and Michael Beirut. In product, Terence Conran was an early inspiration, and it is hard to not be influenced by the contemporary work of Jony Ive."
7x7: Your home is...
TB: "Simple: lot's of white and wood. Lots of books. My wife's style is a little more eccentric so we have a really interesting mash-up with her quirky collection of objects."
7x7: Your ideal day off?
TB: "Taking our dog Charlie for a walk along Crissy Beach."
// Hotaling Place at Jackson Street (Jackson Square), allbirds.com