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New Balance has mastered the art of collaboration

This year, the American sportswear brand has created unforgettable collaborative sneakers

New Balance has mastered the art of collaboration This year, the American sportswear brand has created unforgettable collaborative sneakers

In the eternal fight between Nike and adidas, 2020 might have revealed a very valid contender in this war, a brand that, especially in the last twelve months, has elevated the concept of collaboration, making it an integral part of its DNA and taking it to its maximum expression. If in the collective imagination the fame of New Balance is closely connected to mainstream personalities such as Steve Jobs and to that normcore aesthetic that saw its greatest spread in 2014, the brand has been able to expand and overcome its fame as a founding brand of dad shoes trend by becoming one of the most influential voices in the sneaker game through solid silhouettes, with a pure and interesting design, making greys and soft colours its best allies. Although the concept of collaboration is anything but innovative in the sector, New Balance has been able to find personalities and realities that fall into the category of tastemakers, capable of building aesthetics and tastes, whether it be Jaden Smith or small brands that can count on certain cult status

In the long list of New Balance 992 released this year, many of them are the result of collaborations. We can't start without mentioning the ones co-signed by JoeFreshGoods, a designer from Chicago, who for Valentine's Day worked on a silhouette that recalled the anatomy of the heart and was, therefore, a tribute to love. Subsequently, those with WTAPS, the cult Japanese label, were released, which brought back a historical colourway enriching it with the Ura-Harajuku touch. And again, there was no lack of 992, this time designed by Studio FY7, a creative agency in Paris, which in the sneaker proposed new colourways inspired by the Algerian landscape, affirming its roots with conviction. But in particular, the 992 created together with JJJJound is the most representative collaboration of the year for New Balance. With the addition of the branding of the label founded by Justin Saunders and the reiterations in two sophisticated colourways, the two brands have sublimated their cult status, further elevating their aesthetic codes in a release that sold out immediately. 

One of the striking aspects in New Balance's work is the brand's decision to work almost exclusively with historical silhouettes, part of the brand's archive, sometimes forgotten, others already iconic, which take on a new and unprecedented look with each collaboration. If for the collaboration with the emerging label Casablanca New Balance has chosen to work on a new silhouette, the 327, the result of the blending of two silhouettes from the 70s, for the collaboration with Aimé Leon Dore, the cult brand from New York, NB has drawn heavily from its archive, bringing out the New Balance P550. Originally created in 1989 as a basketball silhouette, the shoe's fate has long remained mysterious and smoky, as the shoe soon fell into oblivion after its debut. As Teddy Santis, founder and designer of ALD wrote, while announcing the collaboration on Instagram, it took two years and a lot of work to bring the shoe back to life. The brand's archive, an element that never before represents an essential asset for luxury brands and not only, holds real New Balance gems ready to be rediscovered, and despite the touch and contemporary reinterpretation of other brands and labels, it's the sneakers themselves that are characterized by a soul that transcends times, aesthetics and trends. 

After the great success of the New Balance 2002R designed by Salehe Bembury, another relaunched and re-edited silhouette enriched with new details, materials and colours, all inspired by Antelope Canyon, the brand closed the year with a perhaps unexpected but very heartfelt collaboration, the one with One Block Down. In the reissue of two classic and iconic silhouettes, such as the 991 and 1500, New Balance this time emphasized and highlighted the special bond that the brand has with Italy and in particular with the two cities to which the shoes are dedicated. In fact, 1500 boasts a special relationship with the Roman supporters, while the 991 is one of the most appreciated sneakers by the Milan fashion crowd, as stated in the zine released together with each shoe of the collabo. 

Finally, 2020 saw an important novelty for New Balance, the choice of a real testimonial, therefore not an athlete, but an artist, the American rapper Jack Harlow. It's the first time that New Balance has made a choice of this type as if until now pop culture wasn't much of an interesting field for the brand, thanks to the game and the reputation that the brand can naturally boast in every sector. On Harlow, on the other hand, NB has bet a lot, first of all finding a true fan of the brand - as said Harlow himself, who owns a large collection of NB silhouettes, the only shoe brand he wears - and making his entry into the world of rap with a video in which the New Balance logo is the real protagonist. 

Never before has New Balance been so confident and strong in its identity in the sneaker game, ready to exercise its ability to go beyond cultural and aesthetic boundaries and limits. Now finally landing in the rap scene too.