Allbirds cofounder calls out Amazon for its knockoff shoes that cost way less, calling them ‘algorithmically inspired’

Joey Zwillinger, cofounder of Allbirds. Allbirds

If you want a shoe that looks almost identical to Allbirds’ wool sneaker for a third of the price, Amazon has a knock-off for you. Allbirds cofounder Joey Zwillinger doesn’t approve, however.

Zwillinger took aim at Amazon for selling a cheaper Allbirds lookalike during a CNN interview Monday.

“They know a lot about consumers and they obviously saw that a lot of people were searching for Allbirds,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “It feels like they almost algorithmically inspired a shoe that looks very similar so they could capitalise on that demand.”

In a statement to Business Insider, an Amazon spokesperson denied that its wool sneakers imitate Allbirds.

“Offering products inspired by the trends to which customers are responding is a common practice across the retail industry. 206 Collective’s wool blend sneakers don’t infringe on Allbirds’ design. This aesthetic isn’t limited to Allbirds, and similar products are also offered by several other brands,” the Amazon spokesperson said.

Founded in 2014, Allbirds has skyrocketed in popularity, especially in tech circles. The San Francisco startup sells Merino wool sneakers for $US95 and raised $US17.5 million in venture funding before opening its first physical stores in 2018. Allbirds also sells a range of men’s and women’s shoes including lace-less “loungers” and high-top sneakers made from trees, in addition to wool accessories like socks and sleeping masks.

Zwillinger also slammed Amazon for not meeting the same sustainability standards as Allbirds in producing its nearly-identical wool running shoes.

“The thing that was frustrating … is that weopen source all the materials,” Zwillinger said. “If they wanted to use the materials and copy our sustainability, they had all the right to do so. We gave that away.”

Watch Zwillinger’s full interview on CNN.