New Balance Killed Colabs in 2020
Few brands have flexed the collaborative might of New Balance in 2020. Contending with a unique set of cultural and economic circumstances erupting from COVID-19, New Balance refused to take their foot off the pedal, the New England label utilising their rich history of heritage models, whilst also tapping some of the most exciting brands on planet earth.
Throughout the year, New Balance carefully curated a roster of collaborators known for their cult-like appeal and ground-level admiration. Introducing brand new silhouettes like the NB327 with Casablanca, while exhuming heritage hardwood models like the NB550 with Aimé Leon Dore, New Balance smashed collaborations this year.
Here's how they managed to do it.
Fresh as Joe
The pride of Chicago, Joe FreshGoods’ maiden collaboration with New Balance involved the retro NB992, a silhouette that would grow to astounding popularity throughout the year. Using his central creed ‘No Emotions Are Emotions’, Joe FreshGoods composed the sneaker as a homage to love and the anatomy of the heart (the design appropriately released on Valentine’s Day).
With the Joe FreshGoods collaboration, New Balance christened one of their first designers of 2020, the release obviously a big moment for both parties. ‘We about to create history’, Joe FreshGoods said on social media. ‘We about to show people what we can do. Let’s have fun and re-write history baby. My sweet love, New Balance.’
One to get the heart pumping, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better conceptual-execution this year. Setting a standard for the rest of the year, New Balance shot an arrow straight through the heart with this partnership.
A beloved streetwear stalwart of Japan, the urban, militant aesthetic of WTAPS again looked utterly killer on the New Balance 992. Infused with Tetsu Nishiyama’s unique DNA, the WTAPS x New Balance 992 was dripping with Ura-Harajuku style.
A silhouette originally debuting in 1992, the ‘Olive Drab’ colourway locked-and-loaded New Balance’s strong ties to Japanese streetwear, and served as a reminder of the 992 model’s inimitable charm that’s almost more visually coherent than ever in 2020.
‘Here’s looking at you, kid.’
Imbued with the nostalgic, sun-soaked hues of Charaf Tajer’s Casablanca label, the New Balance 327 introduced a brand new silhouette for the New England label. Initially taking the sneakerworld by surprise (New Balance generally prefer legacy models for their collaborative endeavours), the NB327 proved the perfect aesthetic synthesis of two unique brands either literally or emotionally connected to vintage 1970s sportswear (in the case of Casablanca’s Charaf, the role of sportswear seen in his youth throughout Morocco still informs much of his work).
Establishing a luxe, laidback palette emblematic of Charaf’s fledgling label, the Casablanca x New Balance 327 carries with it a sense of unapologetic affluence by the tennis court, the collaboration serving straight aces back in April.
Stomping in Sewerage
Stray Rats dragged one of our favourite silhouettes through the dirt this year – in the best way possible. Manufactured with sludgy brown mesh, toxic green piping, and reflective ghillies, the Stray Rats x New Balance 827 is straight-up filthy. Extending the inimitable vernacular of Julian Consuegra, the colourway again subtly pays homage to The Joker with splotches of purple and green, while the the 3M-equipped camouflage provides plenty of extra flare.
A proud testament to New Balance’s support of cult labels and niche crowds, the Stray Rats collaborations will always be proud and filthy.
JJJJound Bounds Forward
Launching in 2006 as a humble Wordpress moodboard, JJJJound has become one of the most loved labels in streetwear. Headed by Montreal-based designer Justin Saunders, their minimalist aesthetic found a perfect home with the New Balance 992.
Infusing a sophisticated palette on the stately 992, JJJJound stamped their signature industrial brown and mossy green hues on the retro runner, presenting two lovingly-composed monochromatic options. More proof that New Balance have their ear to the ground when it comes to the world’s most exciting labels, the collaboration sold out instantly on JJJJound’s website.
Aimé Leon Dore-able
Teddy Santis and his Queens label Aimé Leon Dore continued to build on their strong relationship with New Balance in 2020, the two linking up for the vintage hooper: the NB550. Known for his love of all things NYC, Teddy threw open the gates of NYC’s court culture for the colab, embracing a long-forgotten child of 1989.
‘Took us a couple years and a lot of work to bring this shoe back,’ Teddy said on social media. ‘Everything about the 550s and what they represented felt like this would be the perfect romance to activate SONNY and the ALD grassroots basketball program.’
A love letter to The Big Apple, Aimé Leon Dore slammed on ‘em with this one.
Scaling New Heights with Salehe Bembury
Inspired by his love of hiking and the Antelope Canyon, Salehe Bembury’s death-defying New Balance 2002R scaled the heights of sneaker collaborations in 2020. A silhouette originally born in 2002, LA-based designer Bembury applied hairy, orangutan-like suede uppers with open-hole mesh underlays adding depth.
‘The collaboration was inspired by my recent attraction and time spent in nature,’ Bembury reflected. ‘Since moving to the West Coast, I’ve really got to take advantage of all the National Parks in close proximity – Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Park.’
A collaboration we’d been salivating over for months, the Bembury x New Balance didn’t disappoint. In fact, it became one of our favourite, long-awaited link-ups of the year.
What was your number one New Balance collaboration this year?
Sound-off on our socials and make sure to check out our highlights of another brand making moves in 2020: ASICS.