For years, Allbirds seemed content to stay in its own lane. The direct-to-consumer, environmentally friendly footwear brand made sneakers for tech bros and middle aged men who couldn't tell the difference between an Air Jordan 1 and Nike Dunk. But now, in the hellscape of a year that is 2020, Allbirds is coming for the world of hype.
After announcing a partnership with Adidas, Allbirds is now collaborating with Chinatown Market for a collection of one-off, upcycled pieces designed by Nicole McLaughlin. It's a testament to McLaughlin, who's known for repurposing clothing and apparel in unexpected ways, that the collection is legitimately appealing. And it's all for a good purpose, as the items will be auctioned off with 100 percent of the proceeds going to The Okra Project and Sunrise Movement.
But still, the question persists: why is Allbirds coming into our world of streetwear and sneakers? If I'm approached by Allbirds, I'm not working with them for anything less than a bag and a half. And I'm not so sure that Allbirds can throw enough money and effort to successfully will itself into cool.
The goods — The collection consists of five pieces made with scrap materials from Allbirds and Chinatown Market branding. The range falls in line with McLaughlin's typical creations, including a mismatched pair of slippers, a vest, and three tote bags. Rounding things out is a beach chair, which would make a nice decoration. All of McLaughlin's work is technically wearable, but should be viewed more as pieces of art.
All five pieces will go up for auction August 7 through Chinatown Market's website. Considering the popularity of Chinatown Market and McLaughlin, they could end up fetching hefty prices. That will be in spite of Allbirds and not because of it. I just can't see this bringing over either customer bases to Allbirds' inline offerings. Streetwear and sneaker enthusiasts can't be duped into thinking Allbirds is cool so easily.
A multi-faceted partnership — After the auction, both the Chinatown Market and Allbirds Instagram account will run a five-part IGTV series with renowned creatives leading sessions on sustainable design and DIY methods. Upon its conclusion, viewers will be able to submit their own creations for the chance at a two-week digital mentorship with the teams from both brands.
This should indeed be a worthwhile pursuit, passing on game to aspiring designers. But again, none of this makes Allbirds cool. It can co-opt our world as much as it wants, but the brand's own sneakers remain butt.