A little over a year after announcing they were becoming more than collaborators, New Balance and Aimé Leon Dore’s Teddy Santis are set to release their first collection together. Santis was brought on as creative director of New Balance’s premium MADE in USA sub-line with the hope the brand could borrow some of the buzz that keeps ALD’s Manhattan store consistently mobbed—and that have turned his lengthy string of NB collabs into hits. The first batch of products release today, and it seems like the collection has all the makings of another sell-out.
The focus of the first drop is three new versions of the classic 990 sneaker and an assortment of sweatsuit items. The 990 has been New Balance’s most reliable hit over the past few years and Santis is smart to go right for the crowd-pleasers from the jump. The first drop includes Santis’s take on the V1, V2, and V3, a series of shoes that get chunkier with each iteration. The shoes maintain the classic gray associated with the 990—but of course Santis’s attention to detail matters there, too. While the standard 990’s color is listed as gray, Santis’s use a shade called Marblehead!. There are also strokes of a beige tone New Balance is calling “incense.”
The shoes depart from the classics only in these small details. That’s a good thing. The suede is now fuzzy, giving the shoes a deliciously worn-in quality that works nicely with the slightly yellowed “incense” accents. They are shoes that come out of the box looking like years-old favorites. The full lookbook shows a more comprehensive look at what’s to come—and this is where the fun really starts. Models are dressed in heavy-duty sweaters, a shaggy topcoat, a cherry-red field coat, a varsity jacket, and cable knits in red, ochre, and cream. These items are styled alongside Santis’s New Balance sweat suit pieces so all the models look like they’re just wrapping up a light jog around Martha’s Vineyard.
Perhaps most striking is how…normal everything looks. Nothing is weird; there are no Ugly Sneakers. Instead, the New Balance drop is filled with clothes you might use to build what we’re calling Nice, Normal Outfits. It’s surprising how refreshing that can feel. Lately, massive sneaker drops have traded in the bizarre: the hottest collaborators in the industry are sought out specifically because brand executives want to spike the punch bowl. Our taste for the weird has helped bring Crocs into the hype vortex. Our clothes haven’t gone unaffected either: I got a text from a friend the other day sincerely asking me to help him understand what was so cool about Justin Bieber’s ‘90s-inspired, super-baggy Grammy’s suit And while we love a purposefully Bad Suit as much as the next person, it’s these clothes—and this styling—that help the new New Balance collection stand apart. What if looking good was simply about, well, looking good?
Sidestepping trends is part of Santis’s playbook at New Balance. When Santis’s position at New Balance was announced, he laid out his intentions to stay a few beats removed from the crazed energy at the heart of sneaker culture. “I was drawn to New Balance for the way it has built a business founded on values such as integrity and authenticity, rather than passing hype,” he said. The new collection makes good on that promise.