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It’s A Small World After All With The New Balance 581 Global Sneaker Retail Collaboration

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For Spring 2012, New Balance went all around the world more times than Lisa Stanfield and found not one, but four sole mates. As part of a global design initiative, New Balance selected four sneaker retailers, each located in a different regions of the world, and offered them the chance to reinvent the New Balance 581 sneaker in a manner that would capture both the qualities associated with their boutiques and the cultural and style norms of their geographical location. Using the 581’s streamlined, city slick silhouette and infusing their own aesthetic sensibilities via the choice of materials and colorways, these sneaker boutiques all went half on their sneaker babies, producing a new generation of fashion-forward and culturally diverse 581 kicks (just don’t call them Jrs., okay?).

The four sneaker boutiques selected for the global collaboration were: Mita Sneakers in Tokyo, Japan; Kasina in Seoul, Korea; 24 Kilates in Barcelona, Spain; and Bodega in Boston, MA. According to Luis Navarro, Product Manager of New Balance’s Lifestyle division, the choice of boutiques was ultimately one made by the global marketing team, the members of which identified key retailers in four distinct regions that they thought would “best use influences from their own cultures to bring the 581 to life.”

And, sure enough, the four boutiques selected envisioned some rather disparate interpretations of the 581 style. The New Balance x Bodega sneaker (pictured second above), for example, was inspired by the ski jackets of the 1990s with their bold juxtapositions of color. The sneaker, then, includes pops of teal, orchid pink, navy, heather gray, and sky blue that recall the ensembles in B- and C-grade movies like 1991’s Ski School and 1995’s Aspen Extreme. Touches of fleece around the ankle collar and atop the tongue reference the lining of these jackets, adding a textural element to the ski motif which, of course, is more than fitting for the United States’ Northeast region, with its chilly winters.

Though the New Balance x Bodega 581 sneaker is my absolute favorite, the other three editions are also worth noting. The New Balance x Mita 581 sneaker, for instance, features creamy ivory uppers in homage to the abundance of white symbols and visuals in Japanese culture — from the white backdrop of the nation’s flag to the plumage of the crane, which is known as the “bird of happiness,” the pristine uniforms used for karate practice, and the panels lining dojos.

In keeping with the demure and understated vein of Mita’s 581 interpretation, the folks at Kasina in Seoul created a similarly classic design, employing buttery cream shades of suede and mesh and an unexpected bit of tweed atop the toe to infuse the style with a timeless elegance.

Last, the New Balance x 24 Kilates 581 sneaker boasts an outdoorsy vibe thanks to the earthy colorway, which was itself inspired by the Camino de Santiago, a network of pilgrim routes that stretch across Europe, all ending at the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. The sneaker, then, fuses together forest green suede, mahogany brown leather, and dark wenge wood-colored mesh to mirror the colors of the foliage, trails, trees, and mountains encountered along these routes. The choice of bright orange for the stitching rimming the logo at the side of the sneaker, the trim at the outsole, and the laces could all perhaps be attributed to this shade being commonly used to outline pilgrimage routes on maps. A scallop shell on the tongue, meanwhile, makes a direct reference to the Camino de Santiago journey, as it’s a souvenir commonly gifted to those who complete the travel.

Most of the sneakers in the New Balance 581 Global Collaboration landed in stores on January 7th, and they all retail for $110-$120. The limited-edition kicks can be purchased at select retailers, as well as at Bloomingdales.

Those of you eager to nab some kicks online will appreciate this tidbit: the New Balance x Mita sneaker and the New Balance x 24 Kilates sneakers are currently available for $120 each at Barneys.com

 

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