I attended the third annual Fashion Tech Forum this past October, and had a chance to meet a few brands I have been really excited about, including the fastest growing shoe company in the world, Allbirds. If you live in California, you definitely know at least 5 people who wear these shoes every day. They became the darlings of Silicon Valley/Beach this past year and they did it with only two styles.
Allbirds launched around 18 months ago, so their hockey stick growth (forgive the buzzword) is something every startup, especially in the fashion industry, should study. According to their founder, Joey Zwillinger, their success had to do with three things: timing, product and ingenuity.
Every founder, myself included, believes they are creating the best company in the world. They would have to or they would never do it. However, if we pull apart Joey's responses; if they weren't creating the most comfy shoe in the world, would this brand really be growing faster than Nike?
There are some great key takeaways for budding entrepreneurs below that I got from my conversation with Joey:
The athleisure movement has recently taken over the fashion industry. You see celebrities wearing sweatpants with high heels and fashion editors wearing tennis shoes with custom gowns at New York Fashion Week. The world was looking for ways to dress down to dress up, and during this fashion transition, Allbirds was born. Everything in the world comes down to timing, so noticing a trend, and jumping on it quickly is a sure way to start making your mark. Wait too long, however, and you may not catch the wave.
There are hundreds of ways Allbirds could have broken into the Athleisure market, but they chose shoes with only one style (SKU) to start. The founders were passionate about making the most comfortable shoe in the world, so they put all of their eggs in one basket and decided on one style of sneaker.
I would not recommend this to any other founder, but the reality is, if you are a new brand, you have to hit the ground running (pun intended) with your new product for it to stick, therefore making it necessary for you to perfect that first launch.
Allbirds are wool which historically is not a cruelty free or sustainable material. The brands promise to make the worlds most comfortable shoe also cares about making their business sustainable. According to their website, their "merino wool is ZQ-certified, which means it meets stringent standards of sustainable farming and animal welfare." They also create their insoles using castor beans which is a much more energy efficient and sustainable practice than the alternatives.
Allbirds doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon. They are following the trend of online companies opening brick and mortar pop up locations to high traffic areas. They are certainly a company to watch over the next 12 months. Perhaps Nike will try to acquire them to stay ahead of the game.