Interview: Allbirds on transforming the industry through material innovations

The former professional football player retired after going to the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 with the New Zealand national team. One thing he knew from his football career was that shoes were generally made from synthetics.

— And since I’m from New Zealand — the land of +20 million sheep — I started kicking around this idea of using wool in footwear. The brand was born from an insight that there was an opportunity to create sleek, logo-free shoes from natural materials that could be better for the planet. After years of working on this idea off and on, I was lucky to be introduced to my co-founder Joey Zwillinger, who shared my vision and understood the potential of the business idea, and together we launched the brand. 

He and his colleagues refer to San Francisco-based Allbirds as a natural material innovation brand, designing and developing footwear and apparel made from natural materials such as Merino wool, eucalyptus-free fiber, sugarcane, and more.

— As a B Corp, Brown explains, our mission is to tread lighter on the planet and help our customers live life in better balance by providing them with sustainable wardrobe solutions.

The brand launched in 2016 with one silhouette, the Wool Runner.

— It took us 14 months before we introduced our second style, so we’ve always been very thoughtful in our approach to releasing new products. We design our collections with sustainability as a non-negotiable, led by this fundamental insight that people don’t buy sustainable products, they buy great products.

— We believe that business should be used as a force for good to create positive impact. We recognize the need to decarbonize the fashion industry and beyond, and we hope to inspire an industry-wide shift from petroleum-based synthetics to renewable natural materials. As we race towards a carbon negative future, we need to drastically lower our carbon emissions, which is why we started to label our products with their carbon footprint to hold ourselves accountable. We’re also 100% carbon neutral since 2019. We hope to encourage other businesses to follow our lead in becoming more carbon conscious.

Tell us more about your fabric innovations.

— We are constantly innovating and sourcing natural materials, says Brown. SweetFoam, made from sugarcane, is our green alternative to EVA, the ubiquitous synthetic-based foam traditionally used in most shoe soles. It’s actually carbon negative in its raw form and we decided to open-source the technology to the wider industry as it could truly transform the footwear industry’s dependence on petroleum.

— TrinoXO, the material in our t-shirts, is a super yarn that blends Merino wool with eucalyptus fibre — making it light, breezy, and temperature-regulating. Its secret ingredient is what we call XO, an extract from discarded crab shells that has unique anti-odor properties. This means you need to wash your tee less, ultimately reducing the carbon footprint of the product.

Even though they’re very sustainable, these material blends might make the pieces more difficult to recycle. How do you resonate with that?

— Recycling is a complex topic in the fashion industry, that no one has found a silver bullet solution to yet, unfortunately. Collaboration across the industry will be key in unlocking the best way to collect, repurpose, and recycle textiles at the end of their lifecycle, without resulting in any unintended consequences like increased carbon emissions due to additional transportation between customers, brands and recycling facilities. We’re constantly looking into new end-of-life solutions, while also continuing to invest in lowering the footprint of our materials and manufacturing, which, like for nearly all retail brands, make up the bulk of our emissions.

This week, Allbirds announced a $2M investment in material innovation firm Natural Fiber Welding and its Mirum ​technology, as seen in the top picture, aiming to bring the most sustainable leather alternative to the industry.

— Through this partnership, Brown tells, we’ll be introducing a 100% natural plant-based leather alternative, destined for our collections. Knowing how confusing it can be for customers to understand what things are made from, we’re simply calling it Plant Leather. It doesn’t contain any plastic and it’s also biodegradable. But more importantly, we’re very proud that its carbon footprint is 40 times lower than traditional leather and 17 times lower than synthetic leather made from plastic. We believe it can be a game-changer for the fashion industry and beyond and we can’t wait to introduce it to our customers, end of this year.


Building brands with Nordic values, with Rasmus Storm, Silas Adler, T-Michael, and Alexander Helle

We revisit a roundtable talk originally recorded for the Italian trade show Pitti Uomo and their digital platform Pitti Connect. Panellists are: Rasmus Storm from Storm Copenhagen, Silas Adler from Soulland, and T-Michael and Alexander Helle from Norwegian Rain.

In this talk we cover:

How their approach to sustainability has transformed over the last few years.

What changes in attitudes they see in their consumers after 2020.

The importance of having a strong work-life- balance.

Listen on Apple Podcast and Acast.


New Clubhouse challenger, office revival and Biden’s fashion czar

1. The office is not dead. Here’s why — Fast Company

2. Investors like sustainability. But they forget about nature — Vogue Business

3. Finland’s secret weapon in the fight against fake news: its kindergarten children — The Telegraph

4. 8 investors discuss Stockholm’s maturing startup ecosystem — Tech Crunch

5. Clubhouse Competitor: VoiceHer Is Building an Audio-based Community for Women — FemTech Insider

6. Sweden says goodbye to parking spaces, hello to meeting places — World Economic Forum

7. Designers, brands and journalists unite to ask president Biden to appoint a ‘fashion czar’ — Fashionista

8. Flying taxis are coming. Here are 5 ways they’ll differ from air travel as we know it — Fast Company

9. Twitter’s ’Super Follow’ creator subscription takes shots at Substack and Patreon — Tech Crunch

10. Haute Couture for Men Is Flourishing: Here’s Why — Women’s Wear Daily


”It’s a smorgasbord of nice views in any direction, winter or summer!”

After 14 years in Stockholm and the fashion industry, working for Acne Studios, Byredo, Aesop Skin Care and his own shirt brand Another Shirt Please, Oskar Ödling decided to move up north with Roxy the dog to his feelgood place and cabin in Tärnaby, located in the south of Lapland. What was meant to be a one year retreat, turned out to be four years, and still counting. 

Today Oskar runs a small cafe up on the mountain near his grandmother’s childhood village, and in his free time, he creates and builds stuff in his workshop. 

My favourite thing that makes me proud of Hemavan: 

Easy question — nature! Up here we are surrounded by mountains, rivers and untouched forests. It’s a smorgasbord of nice views in any direction you look, winter or summer.

My favourite weekend routine: 

I love my fireplace! So definitely a morning fire in the stove, some fresh filter coffee and some bad morning tv with my dog and cat. During the summer I try to fly fish as much as I can when I’m off work, and on a winter weekend, I would probably just have a Campari in the sauna.

My favourite cultural spot:

The Alpine Botanical Garden in Hemavan, one of the world’s most northerly. 

My favourite place for dining out:

The best dinners are served by my friend Niek Meuls at his place. In Tärnaby/Hemavan though, I would say the architect-designed restaurant Björk, serving local food and beverages from the area. Set right on the slopes, the wall-to-wall windows of the cleverly designed Björk a-frame gives an impressive panorama view of the mountains. 

My favourite place for a creative or business meeting:

I would have to say the terrace at my mountain cafe Folke’s! Some homemade fika or a local beer and the meeting will be a success!

My favourite breakfast place:

Breakfast in bed or by the fireplace.

My favourite city escape:

I live in nature, so nowadays I’m the one escaping to the city and to the crowds! In Sweden, I probably escape to Stockholm where I still have most of my friends. Likely you would find me with them at our favourite table at Riche.

My favourite local entrepreneur or creative I want to promote:

I need to say Per Enoksson aka Hikki who’s a local designer here in Tärnaby/Hemavan. He designed two outdoor bathtubs that I need!

My favourite hotel for a staycation:

Lovund Hotell on an island on the north coast of Norway, just a couple of hours from Hemavan. Stunning view and lovely food.

My favourite route for a run or walk: 

I hate running, so my favourite walk with my dog would be to the mountain Sarviestjåhke by the lake Nolphen. It takes around 90 min to get to the top from the road and the view is spectacular! 1148 MSL and on a clear day you’re able to see all the way to Norway. Worth it every time!

Hemavan scenery.

My favourite place for fashion:

Tokyo, Japan. Great people, quality, food, architecture and so on. I just love everything about Tokyo.

My favourite space for great design: 

The garage/workshop that my father and I built. I’m all into furniture design and concrete steel at the moment. So that’s the place to be for me.

Folke’s café.

My favourite example of tech innovation in Hemavan: 

The electric car-gas-pump by the food store?

My favourite local media:

My friends Jonas Berglund and Bea Holmberg’s Instagram accounts. Very talented photographers and outdoor people.

My favourite thing at home: 

Though question. Either it’s my old Ebel wrist-watch or my mobile sauna.


Popswap’s new digital lectures teach Generation Z how to consume fashion

Founder Lin Kowalska describes how the connecting thread for her as an entrepreneur always has been to make it easier for people to gather around what they are passionate about.

— And Popswap is a new way of expressing their interest in fashion, she tells.

The app, by some described as ”Tinder for secondhand items”, aims to make it easy and fun for people to update their wardrobes by swapping clothes with each other instead of shopping for new clothes.

— We want to help the you as a user to continue to live out your fashion interest, without a bad climate conscience and without spending a single penny, says Kowalska.

Together with Swedish Fashion Council, Popswap now launches Fashion Goals Academy, to spread climate facts, knowledge, and inspiration aimed at high school students in Sweden.

— The idea came during the time I myself lectured to high school students about sustainable fashion. I quickly noticed the need for more knowledge tailored to students. We want to make them understand why they need to change the way they consume fashion and how they can do it.

And how will you do it?

— Through a free series of digital lectures with accompanying exercises. The lecturers [featured in top, Ed’s note] are a mix of fashion and environmental experts, influencers taken from the students’ world, to make the course as highly motivating and tailored to the target group as possible.

Why is it such an important initiative?

— High school students, who belong to Generation Z, are the biggest consumers of our time — while they are the future. I think they are an incredibly cool new generation growing up. And one that cares a lot about sustainability. We see that resale is growing 25X faster than retail, and it is Gen Z that is the force behind the development, says Kowalska, adding,

— By targeting Generation Z, we can both change the way they and future generations consume fashion, but we can also inspire them to invest in the fashion industry as a profession to promote sustainable fashion.

How’s the reception from schools and students?

— It will be more students taking the course than I could ever imagine. At the moment, we have more than 2 000 school classes signed up, which would mean around 40 000 students will join the course. But we keep getting new signed up each day so we’ll see by the end of the term how many that participated, says Kowalska.


Don’t miss these 20 products from Stockholm Design Week


As Stockholm Design Week coincided with Stockholm Fashion Week, the premium flooring company invited fashion brand Stand Studio to their brand new VR platform. They showed their new SS21 campaign, featuring Caroline Winberg, together with Bolon’s new flooring collection. A recording from the VR tour, followed by a talk with STAND STUDIO’s founder and Creative Director Nellie Kamras and Modaoperandi’s Lisa Aiken is available here.

Cappelen Dimyr’s eclectic No.07 carpet

Soft, irregular pattern of highs and lows creates a vivid and intriguing feel. Chunky tassels frames the rug, made completely of unbleached New Zeeland wool.


Collective Impressions by Kasthall

The new carpet collection mixes new interpretations of old designs as well as new launches and includes 80s-inspired Square as well as black and white graphic rug Påfågel (Peacock).

26 design brands in unique installation 

Inside Swedish Design gathered world-leading companies and internationally renowned designers as well as the next-generation of talents for the interior landscape of tomorrow. It’s now available as a virtual tour.

Veermakers by Liljencrantz Design

During Stockholm Design Week, Liljencrantz Design and KFK Master Cabinet-Makers presented their new collaboration Veermakers. It’s a design brand focusing on quality and timeless design to create exclusive furniture without compromise on design, production, or material choice.

Spira by Mylhta

Designer Lisa Hilland introduces the new furniture series Spira, including a chair, a lounge chair, a rocking chair, a sofa, and a screen wall. It’s described as a tribute to nature, Swedish craftsmanship, and to wood and wood production.

The eye-catching Big Talk

Adam Goodrum’s lounge chair uses fabric from Febrik/Kvadrat and is taking possession of any space. It’s a geometrically precise solitaire full of colour, but can also bring us together. Side-by-side for a couple, or as a snakelike installation where one can be all alone or starting a conversation with unknown exciting people.

Jasmin by Layla Mehdi Pour for Offecct

Offecct offers a wide range of sound absorbing wall panels, designed by world-leading designers, and the versatile Soundwave collection not only provides a good acoustic environment but also brings character to the interior. The Jasmine acoustic panel is the result of the first collaboration with Italy-based product designer Layla Mehdi Pour.

— When I designed Jasmine, I was inspired by natural elements that may seem irregular in their macro form, but in the details have a wonderful precision and regular structure. In this case, I started foremost from flowers and developed them into a concrete product with a playful character, she says.

Fogia’s boundary-breaking table

Koku is a range of symmetric and harmonic tables, drawing inspiration from the American-Japanese architect, designer, and craftsman George Nakashima, and created in collaboration with Danish architect and design studio Norm Architects. Available in three sizes.

Karin Sköldberg, founder and CEO, Trendgruppen

Trendgruppen Design TV

Due to the restrictions, Stockholm Design Week was mainly digital, and so was leading PR agency Trendgruppen’s presentations. The firm invited industry insiders, designers, representatives from their clients, and other guests to their studio with a set design by Aska Arkitekter, to be interviewed by trend expert Stefan Nilsson. The five episodes are 15 minutes long and available here.

Note Design Studio + Gunilla Allard for Lammhults

Design legend Allard and the iconic Swedish design house Lammhults have turned to Note Design Studio for some fresh creative thinking. The result is Sunny, a versatile, low-slung, and comfortable armchair in an elegantly simple design formed from a sinuous steel piping frame, topped with a mattress-like cushion.

Massproductions lets DJ Axel Boman explore the ”sound” of new BAM! sofa

A creative sound experiment with the Swedish music producer for the pop art culture-inspired launch.

Puffy Lounge Chair wins Born Classic 2021

The award is a collaboration between Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair and the Bukowskis auction house and goes to a new item of furniture or lighting that is judged to be a potential design classic of the future.

2021 year’s winner is the Puffy Lounge Chair, by the experimental and unconventional star of British design Faye Toogood, designed for the Stockholm-based interior design brand Hem.

Jury’s statement:

”While the design of this year’s Born Classic winner is firmly rooted in our age, we believe the designer has created a future classic. With both aesthetic and material qualities, we are confident that this piece of furniture is going to be appreciated for a long time to come. This acclaimed armchair has already enjoyed a warm reception and been widely shared on social media, which is even more reason to think that this is a Born Classic.”

Fabien Cappello’s limited plate line made of offcuts

Speaking of Hem, we talk to the French furniture and spatial designer about his new line, celebrating local Mexican craft traditions and the beauty of reusing, here.

Sculptural table Savoa by Sakari Hartikainen for Swedese

The classic Swedish furniture company’s new series of tables is designed in collaboration with Finnish industrial designer Hartikainen. It’s made of solid oak with sculptural shapes, that show the characteristics of the wood, and the design is characterized by playfulness and a light feel. Available in three sizes.

”I’ve discovered the countryside and the joy of making things myself again”

We speak to Tom Dixon on Scandinavian design, lockdown lifestyle changes, and his new CLOUD collection that debuted at Stockholm Design Week here.

Atelier Bar Stool by TAF for Artek

The crafted solid wood stool complements the Atelier Chair, which was designed for the new restaurant of the National Museum in Stockholm in 2018.

Per Söderberg explores the beauty of Calacatta marble in new Bespoke line

”Calacatta is the world’s most sought-after stone, which makes it incredibly exclusive. What’s typical for Calacatta is that it has a very distinct dark grain against a white background. The whiter the background, the more exclusive the marble. Each marble slab is unique and each part of the slab has its own character.” More here.

Daniel Wester expresses the beauty of hand-carved fresh wood

The Swedish wood artist’s design process is slow. ”It takes time for the tree to grow. And it takes time for me to carve the pieces and forms I want to,” he explains here.

DUX x Carl Hansen & Søn

The two players launch a bed based on sketches found in Børge Mogensen’s archives. With a sleek design and compelling choice of materials they describe how the best of two worlds are combined — DUX’s expertise in sleeping comfort, and Carl Hansen & Søn’s tradition for craftsmanship and design. The bed has never been in production before.


”There is no iPhone for VR — a product so attractive and affordable that it sits on every person’s nose.”

In 1993 I was a 12 year old boy with a newfound cultural interest that spanned from Guns n’ Roses and Metallica to action movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. It was a golden era for this particular canon. Guns n’ Roses’ double album Use Your Illusion part I and II was roaming the earth and Terminator 2: Judgment Day ran on repeat at my neighbor Erik’s house (I was officially not allowed to see it). I wore steel capped Getta Grip boots and a bandana tied around my head, Axl Rose style! 

That year, the movie Demolition Man came out, starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, and Sandra Bullock. It was a futuristic sci-fi flick set in 2039, filled with then ludicrous predictions about Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming a politician, meetings taking place through video screens, and a future where “physical contact greetings” are abolished. 

Sounds familiar?

Sure, it got much wrong (we still use toilet paper, not seashells, but then again, we still have 18 years to go), but the many things it got right has made the film an unexpected hot topic amongst film critics online. 

Looking back, the film also delivered one of the most quenching sex scenes in movie history. In it, we see Stallone and Bullock engaged in something that could be described as a hallucinogenic VR experience, sans nudity. Wearing a headset that transfers emotion though a kind of brain scan, Bullock refers to the act as “neurological arousal”. Stallone’s character is not amused (understandably, being the first person in history to be cock-blocked by a piece of virtual reality technology) and the movie continues its action beaten path. 

I haven’t thought about this film in decades, but it comes up in my research about the state of virtual reality technologies. Last week in this column, I discussed the underwhelming use of innovation in the current fashion and design week offerings. When moving from physical experiences — fashion shows, design installations — into digital alternatives, we seem to move from 3D to 2D. We watch talk shows and scroll through press images on backlit screens. 

Why, in 2021, is this so? 

In my interview with Emma Ridderstad, CEO of Warpin Media, a Stockholm based company specialised in AR and VR experiences, we discuss the maturity of the technology. It’s easy to imagine a situation where we would immerse ourselves in both fashion shows and design exhibitions in a virtual reality space, paired with haptic feedback-gloves for an added sense of texture in fabrics and furniture surfaces. But it’s equally easy to see that the technology has not reached its necessary tipping point. There is no iPhone equivalent for the VR-glasses — a product so attractive and affordable that it sits on every person’s nose. 

Which is not to say it doesn’t deliver. I had the chance recently to test some of Warpin’s technologies in their headquarters in Stockholm. I was blown away by some of the opportunities that the technology offers. Warpin produces stunning educational VR programmes for large companies, and Emma also showed me an awesome new app they are developing for an international artist. 

When testing a simple program called Richies Plank, a VR experience created to help people overcome their fear of heights (not a Warpin product), I was almost unable to look down, even though I rationally knew I was standing in a conference room. If this silly animated situation could alter my perception, I can’t wait to see what more realistic alterations will do for us. 

So what about virtual sex? Granted, it’s nothing that is on Warpin Media’s agenda. But the question came up recently when podcaster Joe Rogan interviewed Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, but also the man behind Neuralink, a company that develops brain-to-computer interfaces. Rogan asked Musk, somewhat off-hand, ”what if the virtual orgasm would be 100 times better than a real one?”

”I got news for you,” Elon Musk replied, scratching his chin with a smirk. ”It is.”


Christian von Essen (Heja Framtiden) on the post-crisis future

In this episode, Christian talks about:

his coming book on life after corona

the fact that many new brilliant new ideas and companies will come out of this crisis, like the tech boom after the 2008 financial crisis

how sustainable and green mindsets will stay with us 

how education is on the verge of transforming 

how new medical breakthroughs, like chip inplants, will disrupt the medical industry as we know it

Listen on Apple Podcast and Acast.


Airinum and Polygiene’s air mask might be the market’s most durable

Since launched on the Chinese market at the beginning of last year, the Lite Air Mask has received great customer feedback and been a success for Airinum. Founded in 2015 to combat climate change’s impact on human health, the Stockholm-based fast-grower now follows up two limited edition design collaborations (with Swiss fashion brand Bally and Japanese streetwear brand Human Made — both of which sold out within days) with the launch of the new sleek design.

Not only is it sleek, but also treated with Polygiene, a Swedish fabric treatment and world-leading provider of odor control technology that permanently protects the outside skin-fabric from bacteria and other germs.

— Polygiene ViralOff is a wash durable treatment tested on the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 showing a reduction of over 99% of the virus within two hours. This means you don’t have to wash more often due to fear of viruses, tells Nick Brosnan, Global Marketing Coordinator.

Tell us about your Airinum collab. What have you added to their new air mask?

— We are really excited to be partnering with one, if not the leader in high-quality masks on the market. The benefit of having a treatment like this with an Airinum mask is two-fold:

— The user can feel confident that the mask after a day of use will remain fresh and clean of noted viruses. After wearing the mask, it can then be stored or let air dried, and this wearability can continue again, and again, and so on. Additionally, after understanding that you can wear this mask many times over, the user is now also doing something on an environmental level and keeping single-use masks out of the landfills. That, as many of us are aware by seeing all the PPE that is seen littered on our streets and beaches, is a real issue facing us today, says Brosnan.

The Lite Air Mask from Airinum is designed with elastic and breathable materials, the airy, 3D mesh material facilitates breathing, and the elastic earloops provide an adaptive fit around your face. And, obviously, it’s filtering out both pollution and particles — down to the size of 0.3μm.

— We have constantly focused on innovation and research to provide the very best air mask on the market, says Alexander Hjertström, Airinum’s CEO and co-founder. We launched the Lite Air Mask at the beginning of 2020 on the Chinese market to get feedback and data from one of our biggest markets, not knowing how relevant this product development would be. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be a need for our products, but we are proud to be able to provide protection during a time where we are all looking for means to protect ourselves and others.


Blank Atelier launches slow, timeless tailoring line made to last

The duo founded BLANK ATELIER in 2000, Göransson tells, and has worked for different national and international clients besides making their own line. Blank was put on ice in 2010 to reemerge now, in 2021.

— Our way of working is slow, timeless, and made to last. I wouldn’t say there is a ”first drop” and that’s the backbone of our range. Instead, it will develop slowly over time with additions of pieces and colors. The label was created with little means and lots of love and is supposed to grow organically. This means you might not fall off your pony with new trends presented every second month, but with a limited selection of pieces, which, thanks to their minimalist aesthetics and functional durability, presents the client with a timeless uniform that’s made to last, says Fredrik Blank.

How have you worked with the fabrics?

— Our range of suiting are all made of the same fabric, a 100% virgin-wool, fine and lightweight 3-ply tonic of finest Italian historical weave which makes the garment a little sturdier.

— The fabric performance is excellent, and it’s made with all wool standards of today, such as OEKO-TEX, ZDHC, and RIA. The inside of the blazers is made with 3-layer canvas and the linings are a sustainable twill viscose and cotton lining. Corozo buttons through the whole range.

How will you proceed now?

— Except for launching the brand and our webshop, one thing is certain — everything we do need to be well-considered and have a reason to be, says Göransson.

Åsa Göransson and Fredrik Blank. Photography: Tobias Regell