Eco-shoe brand Allbirds blasts Amazon over 'strikingly similar' shoe

Eco-friendly shoe manufacturer Allbirds blasts Jeff Bezos over ‘strikingly similar’ Amazon shoe

  • Allbirds co-CEO Joey Zwillinger says competing with Amazon is not a ‘fair fight’ 
  • Zwillinger claims new Amazon shoe looks like Allbirds ‘Wool Runner’ trainers
  • Eco-friendly brand condemns Amazon for undermining sustainability efforts  

Allbirds co-founder and co-CEO Joey Zwillinger has complained that Amazon are undermining sustainability efforts

The founder of Allbirds, a sustainable and eco-friendly shoe brand, has blasted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for releasing a running shoe that looks ‘strikingly similar’ to Allbirds’ flagship ‘Wool Runner’ trainers.

Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last week, Allbirds co-CEO Joey Zwillinger said that his start-up company could not compete with the billionaire’s corporation, saying that the situation was not a ‘fair fight.’ 

On Monday, Zwillinger added to the row by publishing an open letter on blogging site Medium, saying ‘we are flattered at the similarities that your private label shoe shares with ours.’ 

Zwillinger also condemned Amazon for undermining their attempts to create a more sustainable method of manufacturing footwear, saying that they ‘hoped the commonalities would include these environmentally-friendly materials’ 

San Francisco-based Allbirds, who market themselves as ‘the world’s most comfortable shoe’s are a certified B corporation, which means they ‘meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.’

The brand has positioned itself as an ethical and sustainable eco-friendly shoe manufacturer, and prides itself on using renewable materials and its ambitions to offset carbon emissions from the footwear industry, which it claims is responsible for producing 700 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. 

Allbirds’ co-CEO Joey Zwillinger has said that Amazon’s 206 Collective brand running shoe is ‘strikingly similar’ and ‘algorithmically inspired’ by his Wool Runner model

Zwillinger told CNN that Amazon ‘saw that a lot of people were searching for Allbirds,’ and claimed that their 206 Collective shoe were ‘almost algorithmically inspired’ in order to ‘capitalise on demand.’

Zwillinger said that he was frustrated by Amazon’s approach to the issue, saying ‘we open source all the materials,’ 

‘If they wanted to use the materials and copy our sustainability, they had all the right to do so. We gave that away.’

Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Amazon, addresses a press conference on Amazon’s sustainability model in September 2019

Allbirds’ flagship Wool Runner shoe, which was launched in 2016, uses sustainable merino wool from New Zealand and a sole made from sugarcane waste rather than more environmentally damaging forms of plastic or rubber.   

By contrast, Amazon’s 206 Collective wool blend sneakers, are half the price of Allbirds’ Wool Runners and are made from a mixture of wool, polyester, nylon and viscose. 

In the open letter Zwillinger stresses that his problem with Amazon lies mostly with its use of materials, saying they are happy for Amazon to be inspired by their shoe designs.

San Francisco based tech and science led footwear brand Allbirds opened their first UK store in July 2019

Allbirds markets itself as an ethical and sustainable shoe manufacturer that uses renewable materials and offsets carbon emissions

‘We want you to use it,’ says Zwillinger. ‘If you replaced the oil-based products in your supply chain with this natural substitute (not just for one product, but all of them), we could jointly make a major dent in the fight against climate change.’

In a press statement, an Amazon spokesperson responded to Allbirds’ claims by denying that their wool blend trainers were an imitation

‘Offering products inspired by the trends to which customers are responding is a common practice across the retail industry,’ they said. 

‘206 Collective’s wool blend sneakers don’t infringe on Allbirds’ design. This aesthetic isn’t limited to Allbirds, and similar products are also offered by several other brands.’ 

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