US sustainable footwear brand Allbirds co-founder Joey Zwillinger has slammed technology giant Amazon for unveiling a private-label shoe that looks nearly identical to his company’s ‘Wool Runner’ trainers in an interview with media channel CNN.
Zwillinger made the comments last week in an interview with CNN broadcaster Christiane Amanpour.
He said trying to compete against the technology giant as a relatively new startup was not a “fair fight” and that the lookalike shoe may be undercutting Allbird’s sustainability efforts.
Allbirds was founded in 2016 and the first shoe it launched was made from merino wool. In March 2018, the company started making its footwear from eucalyptus tree fibre.
The company’s Wool Runner uses a lightweight merino wool upper and a foam sole made of sugarcane waste rather than the typical plastic, which the company says makes the shoe both more comfortable and better for the planet.
Zwillinger told CNN that he thinks Amazon took note of Allbirds’ success and “wanted in on it”.
He told the media channel: “They know a lot about consumers and they obviously saw that a lot of people were searching for Allbirds. It feels like they almost algorithmically inspired a shoe that looks very similar so they could capitalise on that demand.”
Amazon recently unveiled the similar-looking shoe, also made with a wool upper, through its “206 Collective” private label brand. The shoes sell for $45, according to Amazon.com, compared to the $95 Allbirds Wool Runners. But the company said it’s not infringing on Allbirds’ design.
An Amazon spokesperson told CNN: “Offering products inspired by the trends to which customers are responding is a common practice across the retail industry. 206 Collective’s wool blend sneakers do not infringe on Allbirds’ design. This aesthetic isn’t limited to Allbirds, and similar products are also offered by several other brands.”
An Amazon spokesperson was not available to add further comment when contacted by BMI this morning.