Following the likes of Ralph Lauren and Porsche, Allbirds is partnering with the material innovators at Natural Fiber Welding in Illinois. The San Francisco-based shoemaker invested $2 million USD into NFW late last year, and is now announcing a partnership that brings the material maker’s Mirum technology — “the world’s first 100% natural plant-based leather alternative” — to its range of popular sneakers.
The goal is to further Allbirds’ collection footwear made with natural, plastic-free materials by incorporating a plant-based leather alternative into the mix. Since its inception, Allbirds has been known for its sustainable, ethically-sourced merino wool sneakers. Over the last few years however, the brand has expanded its offerings to include silk-like fabrics made from renewable Eucalyptus trees and soles constructed from Sugarcanes.
“For too long, fashion companies have relied on dirty synthetics and unsustainable leather, prioritizing speed and cost over the environment,” says Allbirds Co-Founder and Co-CEO Joey Zwillinger in a statement. “Natural Fiber Welding is creating scalable, sustainable antidotes to leather, and doing so with the potential for a game-changing 98% reduction in carbon emissions. Our partnership with NFW and planned introduction of Plant Leather based on their technology is an exciting step on our journey to eradicate petroleum from the fashion industry.”
Natural Fiber Welding was founded in 2015 with the mission to deliver “comprehensively sustainable, circular solutions” to both its brand partners and consumers around the globe. In 2017, NFW launched Clarus, its proprietary “fiber welding” technology, then a year later, it invented Mirum.
Mirum is made with natural, biodegradable polymers, including natural rubber, vegetable oil, citric acid, and fillers like cork and rice husks. The finished materials are never coated in polyurethane and use no synthetic binders, making it 100% natural with 0% plastic, a triumph in the world of leather alternatives. Because of this natural makeup, it can be recycled and fed back into the production process to make more Mirum, or tossed into an industrial composter, where it would degrade in a matter of months.
Aptly dubbed “Plant Leather” by Allbirds, Mirum is said to have as much as 40 times less carbon impact than traditional animal leather, and 17 times less carbon than synthetic leather made from plastic.
“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 the future of this planet,” said Luke Haverhals, CEO and founder of Natural Fiber Welding. “A new era, one of abundance, will come from the creation of technologies based on sustainable and regenerative methods.”
At the time of the publishing of this article, Allbirds’ Plant Leather sneakers are expected to hit the market at the end of 2021. You can learn more about the partnership at allbirds.com and naturalfiberwelding.com.
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