Earlier in July, New Balance invited a handful of lucky sneakerheads to the brand’s historic factory in Flimby, Northern England. At the factory, these ardent New Balance fans were given the chance to craft a 1-of-1 pair, made before their eyes. Well known collectors “Glasgow” Rob Stewart, Ida Broen and others were on hand for the rare opportunity, each adding their own ideas and concepts to the table, and eventually bringing their design to life.
Philadelphia-based Richie Roxas was among the chosen few, creating his own version of the New Balance 1500. We caught up with Richie at his home to check out some highlights from his massive New Balance collection, and find out a bit more about his trip to Flimby.
See our exclusive images complete with the conversation below.
First, when and why did your interest in New Balance begin?
My interest in New Balance began in the early ’90s. I was collecting sneakers from a lot of brands, but New Balance stood out, and was the most comfortable to wear. They were also, sort of, an underdog brand at the time, and that appealed to me. Grey New Balances look good with any outfit too.
What are some of your most prized New Balances?
I have many pairs of prized New Balances, including the Crooked Tongues 576, Crooked Tongues 991 autographed by BJ Betts, Staple MT575 autographed by Jeff Staple, 1300JP from 1995 and Just For Feet 1600, as well as my vintage Trailbuster, vintage Trail & Fell, vintage 1001 and more.
What are your favorite New Balance collaborations?
There are so many good collabs from over the years, but some of my favorites would include the ones mentioned above, as well as the ALIFE 1300, Capsule 580, Ball and Buck 585, Undefeated 574, HUF RC205, Concepts “C-Note” 998, Urban Outfitters 496, and a bunch from Hanon and J. Crew.
Do you wear everything in your collection?
I don’t wear everything, but I wear most of them. I’d like to have two pairs of my favorites, so that I could wear one and stock one. There are a lot that I don’t have a second pair of yet. Stocking gets first priority since I consider myself a bit of an archivist. If I am able to get a second pair, then it gets worn right away. I can’t always find or afford a second pair though.
Where have you sourced your collection from?
My collection comes from several places. Early on, it was strictly from local stores and what was available nearby. That includes thrift stores, where some of the best gems come from. Traveling to other cities also opened me up to other models and colorways that I never knew existed.
Once the internet and eBay started, it really opened up the scope of what was attainable. Connections with other collectors worldwide through the internet, was also immensely helpful. Sometimes my friends will travel to other places and bring back New Balance gifts as well.
Do you keep in touch with a lot of other New Balance collectors?
I do communicate and keep in touch with other collectors from all over the world, with the help of message boards and social media. We help each other out finding specific shoes and sizes and letting each other know where they are available. There are some insane New Balance collectors out there. Most of my real-life friends aren’t into sneakers, so it’s a good outlet for me to have “digital” friends too.
What do you think about more contemporary New Balance shoes like the S74S or other Fresh Foam models?
I love Fresh Foam. A lot of people haven’t tried it out. Fresh Foam is soft, yet firm at the same time. It’s unlike Boost, which is too soft for me. I feel like I am going to injure myself in Boost, as it rolls too much without much stability. The Fresh Foam Gobi was one of my favorite releases of last year and totally slept on. The Vongo and the Boracay are also dope models. I like the 574S too, but I feel it looks better with shorts or tapered pants, neither of which I wear very often.
Recently you went to New Balance’s factory in Flimby, UK to make a 1-of-1 sneaker. Explain your design.
Going to Flimby to design a shoe and see it being made in person was an extraordinary experience. I love the 1500, and wanted to honor the original grey version. Grey was the base of my design, and it’s also my favorite color. The black and yellow bits pay tribute to The Hacienda nightclub, which shares its 35th anniversary with the factory in Flimby.
I wanted to keep the shoe purely UK. In this case, it’s even more local and purely northern UK. It was my way of paying respect and giving thanks back to the brand and everyone there.
What do you think about the current sneaker reselling climate?
I don’t really have a true opinion on the current sneaker reselling scene because I am not hugely involved with it. It’s helped me a few times, as I was able to find something rare and in my size. Overall, It isn’t really my thing and it seems to be more negative than positive. I pretty much try to stay out of it, other than finding shoes that I personally want.
Are there any New Balance models that you’re looking to add to your collection but haven’t found?
There are always models that I want, and always models that I want to acquire a second pair of. I am always looking for the Stussy MT580 and the Offspring 577, both from 2004. There is also a 577 made exclusively for the Israeli army, that has eluded me a few times.
Peep some of Richie’s best cops below.
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- Photography: Manuel Dominguez Jr. / Highsnobiety.com