An Allbirds vegan range may be underway. The New Zealand-American fashion brand has revealed it is set to launch the “world’s most sustainable” plant-based leather alternative.
At the moment, all of the brand’s shoes feature merino wool, but a new development might see it launch all-vegan styles.
Allbirds invested $2 million in clean technology company Natural Fiber Welding (NFW) to help produce Plant Leather, which is slated to launch before the end of the year. Dedicated to “revolutionizing the materials industry,” NFW develops new game-changing technologies, designed to boost the performance of plant-based textiles.
The new plastic-free Plant Leather has been created with bio-ingredients including natural rubber and vegetable oil. According to a press release, its carbon impact is 40 times less than that of cow-derived leather and 17 times less than that of synthetic leather.
While more sustainable than traditional leather, which is associated with high land use, deforestation, and high greenhouse gas emissions, synthetic leathers are still often made with environmentally-damaging plastic.
Polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are among the most common materials used for faux leather, and these can take hundreds of years to biodegrade.
With that said, plant-based leathers, made from fruits or fungi, are becoming more common. (For example, Adidas recently announced it was working on a mycelium-based vegan leather material.)
‘Scalable, Sustainable Antidotes to Leather’
The market is changing, but sustainable plant-based leather is still far from the mainstream. According to Joey Zwillinger, the co-founder and co-CEO of Allbirds, brands have relied on “dirty” synthetics and unsustainable leather for too long, as they have prioritized “speed and cost over the environment.”
He said in a statement sent to LIVEKINDLY: “[NFW] is creating scalable, sustainable antidotes to leather, and doing so with the potential for a game-changing 98 percent reduction in carbon emissions.”
NFW’s first product was Mirum, a “revolutionary” petroleum-free, high-performance plant-based material made with renewable resources and natural waste materials. At the end of its life, Mirum can be recycled again, to create a new version of the very same material.
“Humanity’s dependence on plastic and other petroleum-based products has created a scarcity mindset that is unsustainable both for everyone’s quality of life and future of this planet,” said Luke Haverhals, the NFW’s CEO and founder, in a statement. “A new era, one of abundance, will come from the creation of technologies based on sustainable and regenerative methods.”
He added: “At NFW, we have developed technologies like Mirum that rely on plentiful natural materials, not petroleum and plastic. We’re proud to partner with a brand helping to lead the charge into the next era. By taking responsibility over their supply chain and the products they source, Allbirds continues to set an example for eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels while continuing to give their customers the quality and performance they expect.”
Last year, Allbirds teamed up with Adidas to launch the “world’s most sustainable shoe.” At the time, an Allbirds representative told LIVEKINDLY that the brands were working to reduce impact across every element of the supply chain.