Tomorrow, April 20th, marks the official worldwide release date for New Balance’s second round of Super Team 33 sneakers. Building on the momentum created by the first round of New Balance USA designed ST33s, New Balance America turned to their Japanese counterparts to design two New Balance 1400s, infusing and balancing their own Japanese sense of style with classic American materials and colors. The ST33 Round Two will release at 33 select retailers around the world.
On the eve of their release, KATC sat down with Tetsuya Shono, of New Balance Japan, and Carey Platto, of New Balance USA, to discuss the relationship between NBJ and NBUSA, explore the inspiration behind the second series of ST33s, and, take a look at the future of New Balance Lifestyle.
Full Interview After the Jump
KATC: I would like to thank you both for taking the time to sit down with us. Before we get into the kix, please give us some background on your history with New Balance Japan.
Tetsuya: My name is Tetsuya Shono. I’m involved in the merchandising division, specifically as the product manager of men’s lifestyle products in the New Balance Japan (NBJ) office. I’ve been working for NBJ for the past ten years.
KATC: For those that may be unfamiliar, explain how New Balance Japan and New Balance USA operate both together and separately.
Tetsuya: Each season NBJ’s Design and Development teams execute our own footwear collection specifically designed for the Japanese market. We also select certain styles from the NB USA line that we believe will also appeal to our consumers.
Tetsuya: I am in the position where I consistently communicate with each NB international team, share styles/concepts, and develop original NBJ styles when appropriate.
KATC: New Balance Japan is known for taking more risks through executing collaborations and applying more lifestyle based colorways and material combos on New Balance’s classic running silhouettes. Is their a regional taste difference or any other factors that allow for this?
Tetsuya: I believe that the Japanese market is one of the biggest factors. As you probably know, in Japan lifestyle and classically styled shoes are much more popular than athletic styles. Classic styles work well in the Japanese fashion scene and are closely related to fashion and cultural trends.
Tetsuya: Also, there are many “sneakerheads” in Japan who are particularly interested in the details, history, and background of shoe design and production – enabling us to take more risks through executing collaborations – as we clearly have consumers who desire such unique stories from their footwear.
KATC: New Balance Japan had a hand in the upcoming second installment of the ST33 Series. What was New Balance Japan’s involvement in the series?
Tetsuya: Super Team 33 is New Balance’s first limited edition global footwear program. The first edition of ST33 shoes was designed and developed in the USA, the second collection came out of NBJ, the third will be designed and developed in Europe and the fourth with be an Asian/Pacific design. All of the shoes are manufactured in the USA, in one of our domestic manufacturing facilities in Skowhegan, ME.
KATC: Based on the New Balance USA’s previous ST33 series, New Balance USAs most eclectic offering to date, how did New Balance approach the second series and what was the inspiration behind the color and material selections?
Tetsuya: The initial Super Team 33 release was very fresh and brightly colored. In contrast, this second ST33 collection is designed in minimal colors and designs to keep the shoe simple and able to be worn with multiple fashions. Above all, I wanted the model to symbolize and represent New Balance’s heritage of high quality, innovation and craftsmanship.
Tetsuya: One of the details that symbolize this is the stingray material used in the heel – creating a distinctive image and style. Typically a very difficult material to work with due to its stiffness, the NB Super Team 33 manufacturing team demonstrated their manufacturing prowess in quickly learning how to best work with it.
Tetsuya: Also, the stingray was considered “a swimming jewel” in ancient China and it was believed to bring wealth to the person who owned the leather and firmly protect their property. In Japanese history, stingray leather was used as a valuable, high quality material, such as for decoration on a helmet or on a sword sheath because of its durability and unique beauty. Stingray, which is one of the strongest leathers, symbolizes the consistent and enduring value of New Balance, as a company with more than one hundred years of history.
Tetsuya: Super Team 33 is NB’s global project, and since Japan is talented in mixing various cultures and packing various elements into one, we have tried to represent the globe with this shoe. That is, I used the traditional check pattern which is popular in Europe and designed it in a Japanese design.
KATC: Carey, Should we expect more of these types of releases from New Balance USA?
Carey: Absolutely! We have intro’s planned every 90 days for the foreseeable future. We already have designs through Q2’08, and the UK is working on Q3. ST33 is our pinnacle collection, and we will continue to use it as the flagship of the lifestyle category.
KATC: Is there anything in the works that you would like us to keep an eye out for?
Carey: After the bright, in your face colors on the initial ST33 launch in January, keep an eye out for more subtle details on the upcoming internationally designed collections.
New Balance Super Team 33 Locations:
Alife (NYC), Shoe Gallery (South Beach), The 400 (Denver), Sportie LA (LA),
P.E.G (Dallas), Tannery (Boston), Shoe Biz (San Francisco), Capital 1524
(Seattle), The Vault (Toronto), La Godasse (Montreal), El Kartel (Vancouver)
Hanon, Size Carnaby St, Offspring Neal St (UK), Solebox, Tate (Germany),
Sneakers’n’Stuff (Sweden), Wallace (Denmark), Vintage 55, Gente, ANO TBC
(Italy), Trust Nobody (Spain), Lijfstijl (Holland)
Mita, Atmos, United Arrows, Oshmans, Urban Research, Darjeeling Days
D-Mop (Hong Kong) Limited Edition Vault (Singapore), S.H Owin (Taipei)