Allbirds to Sell Wool and Tree-Based Workout Clothes, Taking on Nike and Lululemon – The Wall Street Journal

Allbirds Inc., known for its eco-friendly sneakers, is betting people want to work out in wool.

The startup is launching a new line of athletic gear made of merino wool and yarn created from the pulp of eucalyptus trees. The fabric, which was two years in the making, is Allbirds’ latest attempt to rethink the apparel industry’s longstanding reliance on polyester and other synthetic fibers.

Allbirds’ effort to get people to wear wool shoes was a resounding success, as its sneakers quickly became a favorite in Silicon Valley. It now has to sell consumers on the merits of working up a sweat in leggings made of similar materials, while competing in a sector dominated by Lululemon Athletica Inc., Nike Inc. and other companies that tout lightweight, moisture-wicking gear.

Allbirds executives say wool is naturally suited for exercise. It can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture, while also regulating temperature, according to Tim Brown, Allbirds co-chief executive.

Polyester, which is a type of plastic that is usually derived from petroleum, is one of the most widely used fibers in the world, according to the Council of Fashion Designers of America. But synthetic fabrics like polyester shed plastic particles that are finding their way into the oceans.

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