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28th December 2022 EDT FEATURES

The Best New Balance Collabs of 2022

In between giving us a bunch of 990s and dropping highly-coveted partnerships, New Balance has had a wild 2022. Here's five head-turning NB collabs that made our list.

The Best New Balance Collabs of 2022
The Best New Balance Collabs of 2022

By Louis Teo

2022 was a wild year for New Balance. With a new creative director stateside, the Boston footwear brand revisited its archives and treated us to a bunch of New Balance 990s in multiple colorways under its MADE in USA line, culminating in the highly-anticipated release of its latest 990 sneaker—the New Balance 990v6.

And while bigger brothers Nike and adidas were busy partnering up the hottest names in fashion and entertainment, New Balance had been quietly amassing a pool of independent collaborators that possessed equal parts street cred (Salehe Bembury and Patta) and an eye for design (JJJJound and Mowalola).

In 2022, New Balance’s colorful sneaker collaborations proved that sneakers can be wildly imaginative and functional at the same time. More importantly, it showed us the infinite possibilities of what we’d once dubbed “dad sneakers”.

At this point, to sum up a stellar year of collabs for New Balance with a “Best Of” list is almost impossible. Though not conclusive, our list shines the spotlight on five vastly different kicks and gives us glimpses of each collaborative sneaker’s potential and beyond.

1. Aimé Leon Dore x New Balance 550

For a while, the New Balance 550 was the best-kept secret amongst NB-heads, until it broke into the mainstream. The story goes: before Teddy Santis became the creative director for New Balance MADE in USA, he discovered the New Balance 550—a forgotten basketball model from 1989—on an old design catalog. Santis then joined hands with New Balance via his own label Aimé Leon Dore to re-introduce the 550 collaboratively.

ALD Aime Leon Dore NB 550 Best New Balance Collab 2022ALD and New Balance kept the design of the reissued NB550s relatively simple, sticking to its 80s basketball silhouette and retro colorblocking style, unknowingly paving its way to TikTok virality. The duo has since moved on to newer materials like suede, but we think it’s this Summer’s triple threat of brown, olive and purple colorways, featuring the OG leather-and-mesh upper, that truly captures both the 80s spirit of the NB550 and the classic, effortless vibe of Teddy Santis and ALD.

ALD Aime Leon Dore NB 550 Best New Balance Collab 2022

2. JJJJound x New Balance 990v3 “Brown/Black”

JJJJound x New Balance 990v3 Best New Balance Collab 2022Speaking of classic designs, 2022 also sees New Balance join hands with longtime collaborator JJJJound for more clean, sleek reiterations of collaborative NB sneakers.

Taking on the 990v3 once more this past summer, JJJJound, the Montreal brand founded by creative Justin Saunders, dressed the popular New Balance silhouette in tonal browns and complemented the tan mesh-and-suede upper with hits of black on the “N” logo, overlays and outsole.

Eschewing any unnecessary adornment and keeping co-branding elements minimal, JJJJound allowed the NB 990v3’s modern and streamlined silhouette to shine through. Herein lies the magic of everyone’s favorite minimalist brand.

JJJJound x New Balance 990v3 Best New Balance Collab 2022

3. Joe Freshgoods x New Balance 990v3

Of course, a “Best Of New Balance” list would never be complete without Joe Freshgoods. The Chicago designer followed up on his first NB 990v3 from the year before to serve up more multi-color kicks that tell stories of the Black community.

Joe Freshgoods x New Balance 990v3 Best New Balance Collab 2022From baby pink and blue New Balance 9060s to 550s in creamy yellow, JFG churned out hit after hit throughout 2022. Freshgood’s latest outing with New Balance is a trio of 993s covered in pastel shades of pink, blue and green titled “Performance Art”, which we think sums up a fruitful and productive year for him.

Joe Freshgoods x New Balance 990v3 Best New Balance Collab 2022

Each colorway of the “Performance Art” pack features a mesh upper and yellowed midsoles, topped off with luxurious suede overlays in their respective shade. Fresh, thoughtful and emotional, this collection is quintessential Joe Freshgoods and sees the creative coming into his own.

4. AURALEE x New Balance XC-72

Closer to home, Japan’s AURALEE continues to stun with a lineup of New Balance XC-72 sneakers that exudes “too cool for school” vibes. Part of the fashion label’s Fall 2022 collection, the AURALEE x New Balance XC-72s are each wrapped in a singular colorway from head to toe, leaning towards neutral shades like camel and white.

AURALEE x New Balance XC72 Best New Balance Collab 2022The XC-72 is a newer silhouette and less obvious choice for a New Balance collab, but through brilliant colorplay and the deployment of premium materials like quality suede and nubuck, AURALEE has transformed the model into a coveted fashion item.

AURALEE x New Balance XC72 Best New Balance Collab 2022In our coverage of this crossover, we noted that “it’s sleek, fashionable, and a staple piece that would endure through time—which in some way, resonates with the XC-72, which is defined by New Balance as having a time-bending design that ‘the future that the past dreamed about, come to life'”.

5. N.HOOLYWOOD x INVINCIBLE x New Balance 1906R

While thisisneverthat helped propel all new New Balance 1906R silhouette into the mainstream, it is the tripartite partnership between Taiwan’s INVINCIBLE, Japan’s N.HOOLYWOOD, and Boston’s very own New Balance that showed us what this retrofuturistic fusion sneaker is capable of.

INVINCIBLE x N.HOOLYWOOD x New Balance 1906R Best New Balance Collab 2022The project, dubbed “Grey Swan”, sees the longtime partners teaming up once again for INVINCIBLE’s 15th Anniversary and to pay homage to NB’s iconic grey. The trio are no strangers to experimenting with new materials on sneakers; right off the bat, they dressed the upper of the sporty 1906R in five different textures—mesh, waffle knit, suede, nylon—all in varying shades of grey.

INVINCIBLE x N.HOOLYWOOD x New Balance 1906R Best New Balance Collab 2022Even the N Lock System on the sides have been given a two-tone grey treatment. Nods to INVINCIBLE’s 15th anniversary include the subtle orange heel tab and orange-accented outsole.

The New Balance 2002R might still be the reigning model (outside of the 990 series) amongst NB-heads, but the 1906R’s just getting started and this three-way collab shows that its potential is limitless.

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