All­birds Raises Se­ries C Fund­ing

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY NATALIE THEODOSI

The funds will be used to in­vest in prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and the brand’s in­ter­na­tional roll­out.

LON­DON — All­birds, the sus­tain­able footwear la­bel, has closed a se­ries C round of fund­ing, bring­ing the to­tal amount of money raised to more than $75 mil­lion to date.

The lat­est round, which brought in $50 mil­lion, was led by T. Rowe

Price In­vest­ment Man­age­ment, along with Fidelity Man­age­ment & Re­search Com­pany and re­turn backer Tiger Global.

The com­pany — which is best known for its sneak­ers cre­ated us­ing wool and sug­ar­cane soles — said that it plans on us­ing the funds to in­vest in the re­search and de­vel­op­ment of new ma­te­ri­als, as well as fund an in­ter­na­tional roll­out.

The brand had pre­vi­ously se­cured fund­ing from Leonardo DiCaprio and ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Maveron, among oth­ers, and had used the funds to set its in­ter­na­tional ex­pan­sion plans in mo­tion, with a pop-up in Lon­don’s Covent Gar­den open­ing later this month and a U.K. dis­tri­bu­tion fa­cil­ity in the works.

All­birds co­founder Tim Brown, a for­mer soc­cer player, said the roll­out comes in re­sponse to con­sumer de­mand. “One of the fea­tures of our busi­ness is be­ing di­rect-to- con­sumer, which is ob­vi­ously not a new story, but it’s an­chored to the idea of lis­ten­ing and get­ting feed­back,” said Brown, adding that the U.K. launch also rep­re­sents a home­com­ing of sorts. He in­cu­bated the idea for the brand while study­ing at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics here.

“We ini­tially started sell­ing in New Zealand and the U.S. and we’ve added Aus­tralia and Canada with great suc­cess. The U.K. is a next log­i­cal step for us.

There is a sim­i­lar con­sumer in the U.K. mar­ket that has an em­pa­thy for our mis­sion to bring sus­tain­able ma­te­rial in­no­va­tion to the footwear in­dus­try and the fash­ion in­dus­try more broadly.”

The brand is ap­ply­ing the same test-and-learn ap­proach and us­ing the tem­po­rary store as a way to home in on what the Bri­tish con­sumers are look­ing for when it comes to prod­uct and ma­te­rial in­no­va­tion.

“The abil­ity to con­trol our re­tail ecosys­tem, to get feed­back, to lis­ten and im­prove is re­ally im­por­tant to us,” said Brown, adding that whole­sale is still not on the cards, even as the brand scales.

“We have done some small ex­per­i­ments in dif­fer­ent whole­sale chan­nels, but for the most part we have said no to that. We see our com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in our abil­ity to re­ally un­der­stand our cus­tomer very well. You lose some of that when you let some­one get in be­tween that re­la­tion­ship.”

The Lon­don store, lo­cated in the buzzy Seven Di­als neigh­bor­hood, will mir­ror the ex­pe­ri­en­tial ap­proach the brand has been adopt­ing at its pre­vi­ous lo­ca­tions in San Fran­cisco and SoHo, New York, with the spa­ces used as much as mar­ket­ing and ed­u­ca­tional plat­forms, as they are for sell­ing.

“Stores are both great con­trib­u­tors to our busi­ness, but also fan­tas­tic mar­ket­ing tools. We’ve see them as a hy­brid con­trib­u­tor be­cause our cus­tomers are crav­ing knowl­edge about our ma­te­rial in­no­va­tion and the prove­nance of the things they are buy­ing,” added Brown.

The brand has also cre­ated a lim­it­ededi­tion, ex­clu­sive sneaker style in dark gray for the Lon­don store and is al­ready be­gin­ning to build a lo­cal team with key hires in­clud­ing for­mer Liz Earle chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer San­deep Verma as its new U.K. man­ag­ing direc­tor.

Styles from the All­birds San Fran­cisco store.

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