South Island and Sustainability: Allbirds Creator Tim Brown's Insider Guide to New Zealand

The shoe designer and sustainability pioneer shares his favourite spots to eat, drink and play on South Island, New Zealand.

Inspired by the untouched nature and natural materials of New Zealand, Tim Brown took his sustainable footwear brand, Allbirds, stateside in 2014.

With its headquarters across the Pacific in San Francisco, and a brand vision worthy of its Palo Alto jurisdiction, Allbirds is focused on creating long-lasting shoes by renewable methods. Using innovative techniques, Brown harnessed the qualities of merino wool and eucalyptus-tree fibres to develop footwear that is light, comfortable and subtly stylish - ideal for the adventurers among you.

We spoke to Brown about shoes, South Island and sustainability. With a new store on Long Acre Covent Garden, Allbirds is already making footprints in the proverbial sand.

How did South Island inspire your vision for Allbirds?

This is where we source the best merino wool in the world. It is super fine, 17.5 micron ZQ certified merino, and you'll tend to find it in some of the finest suits in the world.

What should we do on a 10-day trip to New Zealand?

Start in the north by visiting the Bay of Islands and the Coromandel Peninsula, work your way down the country through Taupo to Wellington before taking the ferry to the South Island. Plan a loop here through Nelson, down the west coast to the glaciers.

Where are the best places to stay?

I've never stayed there but Minaret Station near Wanaka is an alpine lodge very close to some of our farms and is meant to be amazing.

What's your favourite city on South Island?

Queenstown is very special.

What are some of your favourite sustainable brands?

I think it is telling how few brands there are that have really made sustainability a non-negotiable in the way they do business. I'm really impressed by the approach of Reformation, however.

Who are your favourite Kiwi designers?

Karen Walker is such an icon and inspiration while I'm really, really impressed by the work of Maggie Marilyn. Then there's Taika Waititi - less a designer and more a creative genius, I'm in awe of his output.

Where are the best places to shop?

Cuba Street in Wellington, where I used to live, is a great place to explore.

Where should we go for adventure?

The west coast of the South Island is so dramatic and remote; it's well worth the drive.

What about for nature?

If you can get down to the Milford Sound it can't be beaten for natural drama.

Where are your favourite places to go walking or running?

Around Oriental Bay in Wellington on a good-weather day. If you're in top shape, ascending Mount Victoria is both intense and special.

What shoes do you (and should we) wear for exploring the island?

Well it has to be Allbirds. I'll go for our Tree Runners.

What is your favourite national park?

Abel Tasman National Park at the top of the South Island near Nelson.

Where should we head for an adrenaline rush?

The shotover jet boat in Queenstown is really fun and if you save up, a small plane ride over to Milford Sound is incredible.

What should we take home with us?

A pair of Allbirds (although as we're just about to launch in the UK and already sell into the US, Australia and Canada you might not need to).

What's in your SUITCASE?

Tree and Wool Allbirds, a great book, my notebook and lots of wool-based clothing because it is so versatile in different types of weather.

You're from Wellington, but where's your favourite place for a weekend break?

Heading on the ferry or plane to the Marlborough Sounds and Furneaux Lodge is worth the short trip.

What is Wellington's best-kept secret?

Welly has so many great hidden bars and cocktail rooms; The Library is one of my favourites.

What are some of the best spots to refuel? (for breakfast, lunch and dinner)

Café L'affare for breakfast, Scopa on Cuba Street for lunch, with dinner at Logan Brown. If you get to Queenstown, Rata or Amisfield for dinner are both very good options.

What's one spot that only locals know about?

Maranui Café in Lyall Bay is out of the way but does such good food.

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