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How are things going at New Balance?

Between Teddy Santis, TikTok and mainstream sneakers

How are things going at New Balance?  Between Teddy Santis, TikTok and mainstream sneakers

How do you measure a brand's performance? Is it the numbers related to sales, online perception, the number of times the hashtag with the brand's name has been posted, or the celebrities who have worn it? Perhaps it's a mix of all these factors, which, in the case of New Balance, would reflect a particularly prosperous moment, not without some grey areas. 

More than a year after the appointment of Teddy Santis as creative director of the Made in USA line, New Balance seems to be thriving. The endorsement of stars like Jack Harlow, the collaborations with Miu Miu and Ganni, and the overwhelming and unimaginable success of the 550 and later of the 530 silhouettes reflect of a positive and eclectic presence. This multifaceted nature has always distinguished the Boston-based brand, which, not surprisingly, has been able to expand into very different spheres, from gyms to soccer fields and tennis courts, entering the closets of dads and simultaneously conquering the hearts of fashionistas who see in the brand's sneakers a must-have symbol of an identity wardrobe made of minimal and timeless garments. So many parallel lines that today seem to point in opposite directions. 

Over the last few seasons, the target audience, or rather, the catchment area of New Balance has changed dramatically, finding new buyers not among the "usual" sneakerheads, but among the very young users of TikTok. On ByteDance's platform, thousands of kids show how and where to buy NB shoes (because scarcity remains an inescapable principle of desirability), how to style them to look like a Scandi Girl, for back-to-school, for simple and cool everyday outfits. This slice of users has led the Boston-based brand to unprecedented and unexpected horizons, engulfing it in those frenzied trend cycles that flourish and die within 24 hours on TT. If for years New Balance 990s or 991s represented an investment, destined to be worn and loved for a long time, today in the eyes of many consumers a pair of NB 530s will look unfashionable as early as next summer. 

@isabellapmayerfashion My new favourite shoes to style #newbalance #newbalance530 #dadtrainers #stylingtrainers #gymoutfits #modeloffduty #modeloffdutystyle @New Balance Infinity - Jaymes Young

As the peak of sneaker culture's mainstream evolution came to an end, New Balance is pursuing collaborations and projects that on the one hand attract new audiences - especially female ones - and on the other are meant to satisfy and appeal to the brand's purists, who have returned to be a subculture. In this sense the contrast seems vast, unbridgeable: how can NB conciliate the campaigns directed by Teddy Santis, which closely resemble an Aimé Leon Dore lookbook, and the idea users have of New Balance on TikTok? Perhaps then the question should be asked differently: not what has New Balance become, but what does it want to be, and who does it want to appeal to? Between hardcore fans and new, fickle, generations to cultivate, aware of cutthroat competition.