Allbirds have reimagined shoe construction and materials from the ground up. It’s this dedication to sustainability that inspires us, and we’re proud to be CEO Tim Brown’s personal bank of choice.

Tim Brown’s Allbirds is soaring

Allbirds couch

Customers all around the world are purchasing Allbirds’s innovative, eco-friendly footwear and apparel. Investors are trading its shares on the New York Stock Exchange since it went public in 2021. And the business, headquartered in San Francisco, has grown to more than 700 employees worldwide.

For a footballer who studied design and who’d never made a pair of shoes before, simply starting was hard enough for Allbirds founder Tim Brown. But using New Zealand merino wool for shoe uppers – an unorthodox, untested material – was even harder, considering the 50-year legacy of fossil-fuel derived synthetic shoe materials the former All Whites captain was up against. But innovation and perseverance are what drives Allbirds. Brown went through hundreds of prototypes before he was satisfied with what would become his maiden product – a pair of breathable, comfortable and durable wool runners that weren’t itchy.

“It was a bad idea for a long time before it was a good one,” says Brown, laughing from the San Francisco HQ.

Twin loves

Allbirds steps

Football marked his early career ticket to the world. He won a university football scholarship to the US and realised his boyhood dream of playing professional football after graduating from design school. Brown played in the trans-Tasman A-League, including for the Wellington Phoenix, and earned 30 international caps for New Zealand.

His interest in design didn’t fall by the wayside. In reaction to all the free, synthetic footwear he received as an athlete, he doodled an idea for a simple, unadorned shoe made of natural materials. A professor at the London School of Economics, where Brown studied a MA in international management after retiring from football in 2012, encouraged him to run with his idea. Four years later, Allbirds was founded.

Allbirds’s higher purpose

Brown felt he was playing for something bigger than himself when he represented Aotearoa in football, especially at the 2010 Fifa World Cup. But, when it came to Allbirds, it wasn’t until he met Allbirds co-founder Joey Zwillinger, a renewable materials expert from San Francisco, that he unlocked a higher purpose for doing business. Climate change is an “enormous tidal wave” of a problem, yet Brown says society was still grasping its scale and importance when he started out.

This is sustainability worn the world over

Now consumers want to know how they can make a meaningful difference. For the last year, all Allbirds shoes have noted their carbon footprint, giving customers a fuller picture of their environmental impact in the same way that food labels convey nutritional value. Allbirds is also a certified B Corp business, just like we are as we use recycled plastic in all our cards, reduce our own emissions and understand climate risks to businesses.

The answer to cracking the code of sustainability is to make products better because they are sustainable,” says Brown. “You’re seeing the beginning of that upended and challenged by people prepared to do things differently.”
Tim Brown, Allbirds Founder

There right from the beginning

Brown has done things differently and we’ve been there for him from the beginning, watching him grow up alongside his ambitions. He reminisces about the Wellington branch he used to bank at on Marion St – he’d walk down Swan Lane from his apartment on Cuba St, past the famously familiar cafes like Scopa, Olive and Midnight Espresso. And even though he now resides in the US, he still banks with us.

Kiwibank supported me through the early stages of working out life, whether that was buying my first apartment or opening my own accounts, getting my first credit card,” he says. “All those things are a part of growing up.”
Tim Brown, Allbirds Founder

Sticking to your guns


Dealing with the doubters is a part of growing up. In the beginning, when Brown would visit factories to gauge their interest in working with sustainable, natural shoe materials, they would look at him like he had “six heads”, he says. But that scepticism quickly became old-fashioned, and the world has shifted rapidly. While there’s still much to do, he’s proud he stuck to his guns when “people, especially in the early days, said ‘this can’t be done’”.

From starting with merino wool seven years ago to using plant-based leather, South African tree fibres and a shoe sole material derived from sugarcane, the success of Allbirds and Brown has a distinctly Kiwi tone to it.

“I think about it very much as a New Zealand idea,” he says. “We’re going after something very serious but we’re not taking ourselves too seriously.”

Now, Allbirds is working with iconic global sports brands like Adidas to create low carbon high performance running shoes. We’re proud to support Kiwi innovation that’s changing the world.