From the ground up

In the 2000s, sneaker collaborations were not quite the same marketing device of today. We look back at the stories behind some of the earliest New Balance collaborations and limited executions.

During our recent visit to the New Balance factory in the northern English village of Flimby, the Boston-based brand opened up a section of their sneaker archives for an exclusive peek at several storied made-in-England models. Senior Footwear Developer for New Balance Chris Hodgson walks us through some of the more interesting anecdotes in the brand’s footwear archive.

Microzine x New Balance 576

“This 576 looks like it’s been under a car, this was made for a very small company in Liverpool at the time. They bought 72 pairs of that shoe where 60 pairs looked like ordinary 576s with that stingray trim, and for 12 pairs we took the shoes and put them under a roughing wheel and made a mess of them because that’s what the guy wanted. They were all delivered to his store in Liverpool where he sold the 12 pairs in roughly an hour and struggled to sell the other 60 pairs so he actually went out and bought himself a dremel and reproduced that look onto all the remaining 60 shoes in the back of his own store.”

24 kilates x New Balance 1700 “Gaudi”

“Without looking too closely, in its widest sense, this 1700 is supposed to be a depiction of Gaudi’s Cathedral in Barcelona. It’s there to illustrate the sort of things that can be done with materials. That leather has been produced, tanned and finished. It then came to New Balance where we sent it to a third party to get that stained glass window printed onto it.”

Limited Edt x New Balance 577

“This black and red 577 was produced for a shop in Singapore named Limited Edt. Nothing out of the ordinary with the shoe, but how they sold it was fantastic. They bought aluminum combination-lock camera cases for all the shoes, put a pair of shoes in each case with a combination for each case. They set them up in sizes in their store, which looked like a vault, and you actually bought a ticket and the ticket had the combination code on it where you had to go and find your box with your size. The whole thing was a huge success.”

New Balance “Jacket” Pack

“The first real themed pack to be produced at Flimby in any real volume was the “Jacket” pack of three shoes, the first of which was supposed to represent an aviation jacket with the sheepskin lining, the second a U.S. bomber jacket and lastly the road workers favorite, the Donkey Jacket. They all did really well and that sort of set the whole thing off.”

For more sneaker history, check out our exclusive interview with Nike mastermind Tinker Hatfield.

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