Footwear competitors Adidas and Allbirds are setting aside strategic and intellectual property concerns and embarking upon an unusual collaboration to quickly and jointly develop a high-performance athletic shoe with little to no carbon impact.
Adidas, based in Herzogenaurach, Germany, and Allbirds, based in San Francisco, announced the collaboration on Thursday. The concept, which has been in the works for nine months, is for a mass-market shoe technical enough to compete at the Olympics or other world-class events while reducing the carbon footprint created throughout its life cycle to something near zero. “Nobody is looking for a sustainable shoe,” says Tim Brown, co-chief executive of Allbirds, emphasising the need for a shoe with technical prowess that would be the basis for future designs that could be manufactured by either Adidas or Allbirds.
The companies have not yet identified which sport the shoe will be designed for, but they say they are moving quickly and intend to have a shoe completed within a year.
The fashion industry is awash in brands pledging to make greener products. Those promises are often poorly defined marketing initiatives, bandying around terms like sustainability and carbon footprint with few clear measures or standards. What stands out about this initiative isn’t the sustainability platform but who is doing it, and how.
Most fashion brand collaborations take place between brands and artists who don’t compete in the apparel arena. Adidas and Allbirds are rivals. Allbirds was founded on a commitment to sustainable materials; Adidas has pursued green initiatives, including re-using plastics fetched from the oceans. The two brands are otherwise competing to sell shoes to many of the same customers.
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