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Teddy Santis's collection for New Balance is identical to Aimè Leon Dore

But between the two brands, which have also collaborated, which is the more authentic?

Teddy Santis's collection for New Balance is identical to Aimè Leon Dore But between the two brands, which have also collaborated, which is the more authentic?

New Balance unveiled today the lookbook for the first collection created under the creative direction of Teddy Santis, who was called by the brand in April 2021 to head the Made in USA line. The headliners of the new collection are the 990v1, 990v2 and 990v3 models reinterpreted by Santis in a series of limited collections that will be presented starting this month. In addition to the actual sneakers, there are also apparel products that aim to tell the story of New Balance's heritage by reinterpreting the idea of American classics (New Balance's CMO said Santis' role had to «help preserve the history of Made [in USA]») Dividing into three macro-areas: Elevated Legacy, which uses the brand's signature colors; Uniform Staple to designate the line of essentials; and Quickstrike for the more performance-oriented products. What immediately catches the eye, however, is that the lookbook for the new collection is practically identical to an Aimè Leon Dore lookbook (soft French Terry draping, neutral tones with splashes of color, heavy sweaters and coats with a vintage feel, the ubiquitous ribbed caps) so much so that the same aesthetic of the New York brand seems to have been taken by weight and brought into the new brand.

It had already happened, in part, with Virgil Abloh who brought to Louis Vuitton many of the codes that had made Off-White™ and his collaborations with Nike so successful. It had already happened with Matthew Williams who, through Givenchy, essentially continued that path of research and development of an aesthetic language begun with 1017 Alyx 9SM. It had already happened for years with Hedi Slimane, a designer whose aesthetic is so recognizable and successful that it can be grafted onto different brands while remaining "his own". In any case, this remains the first case in which a larger brand collaborates with a smaller brand and the collaboration is so successful that it revolutionizes the entire perception of the public, reaching the extreme point of creative takeover, in which the director of the small brand ends up conquering a position of extreme importance within the large brand. This is what happened with New Balance, to which Teddy Santis provided a concept so strong that the company had no choice but to adopt it completely. 

It must be said, however, that at least in developing a collection dedicated to New Balance's craftsmanship, Santis didn't go out of his way to radically transform the brand into "another" Aimè Leon Dore by offering product categories completely alien to sportswear. Beyond the barbed coats, red duffels and all the rest of the knitwear many of the looks consist of simple sweatpants and hoodies combined with impeccable styling - there are just enough shirts and tricot wool sweaters to create that "old money" feel. Perhaps the overlap of looks between the two brands that verges on appropriation, the sense of quiet upscaling suggested by Santis' styling, who is a master of sartorial nonchalanche, were exactly what New Balance was looking for - after all, every brand in this era needs an increasingly specific and defined identity. Nevertheless, in the future, it would be necessary to try to better differentiate the spirit of the two brands without giving up the aesthetic taste of Santis who, as the mere frequency of imitations would testify, has changed the way of understanding vintage and sportswear one Aimè Leon Dore lookbook after another.