New Balance continues to deliver. Its latest collection is more than just sneakers — it’s about the essence of sneaker culture — Black people. The New Balance “My Story Matters” collection taps the New Balance 574 and the New Balance 990v5 as the cornerstone models of the Boston-based brand portray the importance of stories.
The collection is two-fold. The footwear and apparel carry the “My Story Matters” mantra as the main story is guided by Black voices and the celebration of their experiences. The collection also includes a range of apparel with the “Their Story Matters” slogan as a way for non-Black consumers to partake in the collection while also showing support in spreading the message as a sign of solidarity.
We spoke with Jordan Johnson, New Balance’s Associate Product Manager of Collaboration & Energy, for a more detailed look at the inspiration as well as the brand’s charitable initiatives within the collection.
The “My Story Matters” footwear and apparel release on February 15, 2021, on NewBalance.com and the Foot Locker family of brands, which includes Foot Locker, Kids
Foot Locker, Champs Sports, Eastbay, and Footaction.
Take a detailed look at the footwear and its inspiration below.
The Importance in Choosing the 574 and the 990v5
Nice Kicks: The 574 and the 990v5 are important not only for the brand but evident for this collection. What’s the importance of both of the silhouettes in tying back to the collection’s story?
Jordan Johnson: You mentioned it in terms of the importance of those models for the brand. They’re classics within our line but also the 574 and the 990 are big in the Black community.
The 574, more so, for its affordability aspect. The 2 for $89 New Balance 574 option was very tantalizing to the community. It definitely holds a special part within the Black community. We felt like it’s something that should be included each year we do these.
The 990 has a great history in the D.C. area and our Black consumers as well. Both of these models hold so much history and so much significance in our community that it only makes sense to have them in there.
The Importance of the Colorway for the Intersection of the Church and the Black Community
Nice Kicks: What’s the significance of the colorway in terms of the relationship between the Black experience in America and the church?
Jordan Johnson: It’s only been two years, but every time we want to make sure we do something authentic for our community. It’s something that resonates with how we were raised. This year was no exception.
The story came from looking around at the political climate, especially over summer 2020. We know how crazy the year went. In the political and race relations world, it’s been time for peoples’ voices to be heard and for stories to be elevated. Our peers, our white peers more specifically, to be able to hear our stories and hear the struggles that we’ve gone through. This is a time where that conversation is open.
We wanted to elevate that story with our product collection. That’s where the original inspiration came from.
We drew inspiration from the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice.” Most times that song is either played in school or at church. The people usually singing this song at church is the choir. That’s where our physical inspiration original came from — the church and the church choir.
When you look at the church choir, you’ll see the different regalia and robes that each church may have. We found that purple and gold is a very common color combination within the church, especially in the Baptist churches. In the bible, purple represents royalty, gold represents value, and precious metal. We wanted these colors to be highlighted in the pack.
The angora, used on the 990v5, reminisces on bible pages as they’re not completely white but off-white. The burgundy that ties everything together is supposed to be reminiscent of the bible cover. If you look up the church choirs, the robes will sometimes have a gold v in the shape of the neck. That’s where the gold theme of the back of the 574 came from. All of these themes that go on throughout the church were the physical inspiration for us.
In terms of how the “Lift Every Voice” story transitioned into the “My Story Matters” brand line, it evolved from the idea of the song. The church theme came from that. In terms of the color inspiration, we wanted the finished product to have that elevated, luxurious sense.
We want anyone who owns this collection to feel empowered to share their word.
The Importance of Celebrating Stories as a Result of Black Lives Matter
Nice Kicks: Last summer brought the conversation of Black Lives Matter to a different magnitude. The conversation made a profound impact on the footwear space and throughout sneaker culture and pop-culture. How did those events and the need to celebrate Blackness inspire this collection?
Jordan Johnson: The elevation of stories and the time for people to be heard was our focus for the collection. With everything going on, we can’t squander this time and opportunity when it comes to conversation for us to be heard. Doing this collection is the perfect way to keep that door open and keep the conversation going. We don’t want this to be a “February-and-out” thing.
When people see this shoe and own this shoe we want this collection to remind you that your story is important and precious like the gold on the shoes. We want you to treat your story as precious as the bible, as the word. Your story matters and we want you to tell it to educate people and teach us how we can be better as a society.
The Importance of Including Allyship in the Collection
Nice Kicks: Black History Month has been celebrated in footwear before. But the “Their Story Matters” creates a broader conversation of allyship in America. That’s unprecedented in a BHM collection. What’s the goal in releasing a complementary set of apparel?
Jordan Johnson: While Black History Month collections are made for Black people, at the same time, a minority is a minority, and we always need allyship. In order to get anything done, you always need a good team around you.
The apparel collection relays that. We want allies to help us out, to spread our message, and to be on our side. We felt like the “Their Story Matters” apparel is something that can spark that conversation. We also don’t want consumers to feel excluded. We want this to be as inclusive as possible. That’s our goal for all of our cultural moments but especially this year based on the political climate. It’s also important to have those allies and see them show up. We want to make that partnership stronger.
How the Collection Furthers New Balance’s Commitment to the Black Community
Nice Kicks: A lot of New Balance’s recent and ongoing success has been because of Black artists and athletes. Kawhi Leonard. Darius Bazley. Joe Freshgoods. Salehe Bembury. Coco Gauff. Dejounte Murray. Jamal Murray. Jaden Smith.
New Balance’s commitment to the Black community has been clear. How does this collection further that both within the brand and out in the market?
Jordan Johnson: The company has done a lot in terms of diversifying its employees and getting different minds that think differently. It’s helped in terms of our output. In terms of our initiatives starting with this collection, by sponsoring the Black Talent in Design and Fashion Fund. We’re giving out 15 scholarships and the creative internal team (at New Balance) is going to act as mentors for the kids in the scholarship.
With less than 5% of people of color within the fashion industry, an initiative like this by the company is something we feel very strongly about. It’s going to make an actual difference. Kawhi is also donating 12,000 pairs to Soles4Souls.
New Balance has always been a very philanthropic company, but there’s a lot of steps that we’re taking starting from last year into this year and going forward within the Black community which are meaningful.