New Balance Real Ale Event

The last Wednesday of July, as NB Gallery, we headed to Cockermouth, a town in Cumbria, England, for the official global launch of the New Balance Real Ale Pack, and boy was it good. The hospitality over the few days that we were there was absolutely faultless, big big shout to all those involved for nailing the event.

The plan was to arrive in Cockermouth and check into the Allerdale Court Hotel, easily one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in – rooms, bar, breakfast, and staff all excellent, and in the perfect spot in this lovely Lake District town. Fashionably late, we arrived, checked in, and were greeted by a NB Welcome Pack filled with goodies, such as a pair of the Real Ale CT300’s, beer mats, ale, NB USB, and our intinerary for the next few days.

Continue reading New Balance Real Ale Event

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NB Gallery @ SoleBloc

For the SoleBloc event in Glasgow on August 1st 2015, with New Balance Gallery being official sponsors, we decided to create a showcase of New Balance footwear, along with various pieces of New Balance memorabilia.

Our aim was to have something for everyone, covering all things New Balance, with 250+ pairs, from vintage models, to collaborations, to the most recent releases. There was to be many shoes on display from some of New Balance’s most well know collaboration partners, such as the complete set of Hanon Shop shoes, and shoes from Solebox, SNS, and Crooked Tongues, as well as never before seen samples.

We never anticipated that our exhibit would turn out the way it did when we started setting up on Friday, but we are extremely happy with the outcome, and with the reaction of those who attended the event.

Continue reading NB Gallery @ SoleBloc

New Balance and Celtic FC Kit Launch

Many years ago, New Balance gear was seen regularly on the football field, and footballing greats such as Bryan Robson wore New Balance boots, but 2015 was to be the year that the brand would take a giant leap back into the footballing world.

First, New Balance announced that they would be sponsoring a number of players, including Tim Cahill, Vincent Kompany, Alvaro Negredo, Adnan Januzaj, Aaron Ramsey, Fernando Reges, Marouane Fellaini, and Samir Nasri. Secondly, they announced that they would be kit suppliers for the following teams, Liverpool FC, Celtic FC, FC Porto, Sevilla FC, Stoke City FC, the Panama National Team and the Costa Rica National Team.

If you watch football regularly, you may have spotted various pairs of New Balance boots being worn by some of the afore mentioned players, but I’ll bring you a post all about the boots at a later date.

Anyway, the Celtic FC kit was to be launched on the 4th of May 2015 at Celtic Park, so being that I support Celtic FC and New Balance as a brand, it was a no brainer, and I made the journey south for the event.

The event kicked off with a question and answer session with John Collins and John Kennedy who were wearing some NB training gear. Following this was the unveiling of the new home kit with a few players from the men’s first team, and a couple from the ladies’ first team, followed by a brief question and answer session with regards to the players’ thoughts on the new kit.

Check out some of the images below, and if you want to find out more about New Balance Football, go to the website, http://www.newbalance.co.uk/football/

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Private Preview of the New Balance 1500FPK x Footpatrol ‘Encyclopaedia’

It seems like every week there are at least 5+ collaborations releasing, and I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s pretty hard to keep up, but Made in UK New Balance collaborations are few and far between these days, so when one of them come along, there’s always quite a bit of excitement surrounding it. Then when you throw in UK heavyweights Footpatrol from London, the anticipation for this collaboration was only ever going to increase!

Before I get into the private preview of the shoe, let’s take a look at the Footpatrol images of the New Balance 1500FPK, along with some details about the collaboration.

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The release has been dubbed ‘Encyclopaedia’, and the tagline ‘Knowledge is Key’ has accompanied the collaboration since the first few teaser images were released. Footpatrol have came together with New Balance UK to pay homage to arguably the most informative and detailed reference source – the Britannica Encyclopaedia.

The Britannica Encyclopaedia was first published in 1768, and was produced in fifteen editions until it’s present physical volume in 2012, and this shoe uses this source of knowledge as it’s inspiration. If you look at the shoe, and then look at the Britannica Encyclopaedia pictured, it’s clear that the people of Footpatrol and New Balance have worked extremely hard to execute this concept to the highest of standards.

The New Balance 1500FPK has a screams premium at first glance, with it’s predominantly black upper, decked out in only the best materials, with plush suede on the toe wrap and ankle sections, complimented by some smooth black leather across the toe box, side panels and tongue. Some contrast gold detailing comes in the form of the embroidery on the tongue, heel logo and of course the traditional small single embroidered ‘N’ logo on the lateral side. The heel logo on the medial side features a blacked out double embroidered ‘N’ logo, which is a really nice touch. There is also an embroidered tab on the rear of the tongue, which features an illustration of a book with the tagline ‘Knowledge is Key’, while the insole takes elements from some of the content found in the Encyclopaedia, in an off white colour with an anatomical illustration of the human foot. It doesn’t end there though, as no shoe is complete without some reflectiveness in my opinion, and this comes in the form of the reflective piping around the ankle collar.

You’d think we’d be finished by now on the detailing front, right? But no, adding to the already class details, the shoe is sat on top of an off-white midsole, and has everyone’s favourite gum coloured outsole. As a little reminder as to who the brains are behind this collaboration, the famous Footpatrol gas mask comes in a black and gold swing tag. Finally the vibrant Red New Balance logo situated on the heel and the outsole is a nod to both the bookmarker found in the reference book and the flagship colour used on the NB logo.

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With the release set for Saturday 24th January, Footpatrol and New Balance personally selected a small number of people, mainly press and loyal customers to join them for a special preview of the Footpatrol Encyclopaedia ‘Knowledge is Key’ 1500. The event took place at the stunning Library on St. Martin’s Lane, an exclusive private members club just off London’s famous Leicester Square, and this is where the original shots featured above were taken.

Here we would also be treated to a personal Q+A with the New Balance team – Tom Henshaw, Andy Okolowicz, Chris Hodgson, and Jamie Metcalfe, as well as an insight into the Footpatrol shoe, while being able to indulge in some fine food and drink. It’s quite rare to be treated to events of this form, as usually it’s just a case of a venue with some music and lots and lots of beer, but the efforts that both NB and Team FP went to organise this classy event fits in with the whole theme of the collaboration perfectly.

When we talk about New Balance, and discuss things online, a lot of the information is taken from various websites, or stuff you’ve picked up through the years, but to be sat down with people like Chris and Andy, and be able to tap into their comprehensive knowledge of all things NB, whether it’s creative or technical, it really is quite something. Hats off to Jimmy and the rest of Team Footpatrol too, who were more than happy to discuss any aspect of their great project, and obviously like us who were just grateful to be in the room, they were grateful to be one of the very few who are given the opportunity to work with New Balance UK and produce such a stunning shoe.

When you think about this project in more depth, and as was pointed out by Jimmy of Footpatrol, the use of the Encyclopaedia Britannica as inspiration for a Made in UK New Balance is very appropriate, especially since the Encyclopaedia has a long standing tie to British heritage – it even has a thistle for it’s logo! The Encyclopaedia is high quality to touch, and craftmanship is something that New Balance pride themselves on, especially when it comes down to materials, with only the finest being used on this project. One particular interesting fact mentioned by Chris Hodgson in relation to materials was that the leather used throughout the shoe, is in fact, waterproof, and it was sourced from English tanneries.

The New Balance 1500FPK sees a production run of around 1320 pairs, which doesn’t seem like all that many, but be sure to keep your eyes open for a worldwide release soon, but in the mean time, check out some pictures below from the event.

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New Balance C-Series Event at TokyoBike London

Last Thursday, the 22nd of January, New Balance launched the exciting new C-Series range at their Tokyo Bike stores in London, New York and Tokyo. We went along to the main event which took place in London, where over 300 people came through and packed out the Tokyo Bike store in Shoreditch.

In keeping with the Japanese theme, there was Sushi and plenty of Japanese Asahi beer to go around all those who were in attendance.

The Tokyo Bike shop featured a bike pedal display showcasing the new C-Series range, as well as a display case explaining how each of the components makes the series a unique lifestyle offering, but with performance enhancements.

It wasn’t just footwear that was on show though, Tokyo Bike premiered two brand new bikes which are colour matched to two of the C-Series shoes, and they combine classic simplicity with modern engineering.

You really have to get a close look at the C-Series, and get them in hand to appreciate the level of work that has went into designing this range. The good people of the Footsoldiers and New Balance Japan have put massive amounts of thought into producing a shoe that not only looks great, provides huge levels of comfort, but holds up well when put through it’s paces providing a high level of performance.

The New Balance C-Series is available via Tokyo Bike, New Balance, and of course, all your other usual New Balance retailers. We can’t wait to see what more is to come from the New Balance C-Series in the future!

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Flimby Factory Visit

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So, I had known for a little while that I would be heading down to Flimby to visit the New Balance Factory, but it never really hit home until a couple of nights before, it felt like Christmas was coming early. Anyway, the whole visit came around following a petition that was started with regards to the shape of UK Made models, in particular the 1500, and we were invited down to discuss this with the designers and developers, but I’ll address that further down.

We were staying at nearby Cockermouth, but left there in the morning and headed to Flimby to be there for around 9am, a nice early start. Flimby is a small coastal village in Cumbria, England, and there isn’t much there, except of course the New Balance Factory, a huge power plant, and loads of wind turbines!

Upon arriving at the factory, I had a little bit of an idea what to expect, and from the outside it doesn’t look like much, but as soon as we stepped onto the factory floor for our tour, all expectations were surpassed. The sheer size of the factory inside was breathtaking, then throw into that all the hundreds of machines, workers, materials, etc, and it blows everything you could ever have imagined out the water.

New Balance haven’t always resided in Flimby, back in 1982 they began manufacturing shoes in an old K-Shoes factory in Workington, but in 1991, they made the short move to  Flimby, and as the old saying goes, the rest is history. Over the years, the factory has grown in size, and the workforce too, with now over 250 people working there and producing around a million pairs of trainers a year.

The factory prides itself on it’s ‘Made in England’ tag line, which means that all the shoes with this tag have been made from scratch at Flimby, and the volume of shoes produced this way is set to increase next year. Along with the Made in England pairs, the factory also produces performance shoes which include uppers and sole units which are only assembled there.

It’s extremely rare for any brand, never mind a brand the size of New Balance to have not packed up and moved their manufacturing elsewhere to the likes of Asia, like many footwear brands before them have done. Of course, New Balance is a US brand, and they have a number of factories in the US, along with Asia, but for a workforce and factory this size to still be making shoes in the UK, it really is a testament to the Flimby factory and those who who work there day in day out.

If you follow the brand, names like Audrey Stewart, Ian Byers, Victor Dixon, Andy Mandle, Billy Edgar, and Roy Bell may ring a bell to you because of the shoes that they have had their name put to over the years, but those six, along with others such as Chris Hodgson, Mike Middlehurst, Andy Okolowicz, and every other member of the workforce, really are the un-sung heroes of the footwear world.

Following the tour of the factory, we visited Chris and Mike’s office which houses the ‘vault’, a fancy name for a room in darkness at the far end, but housed with loads of gems that have been produced at the Flimby factory over the years, along with future releases, prototypes, you name it, that room had it! When you see all those shoes together in one place, it’s easy to see why there are so many people who love the brand and share the same passion for it.

With the factory tour and a little jaunt in the vault over, it was time to head back to the meeting room and sit down with some of the designers, the developers, and others, all of who play a vital part in the running of New Balance Europe. The discussion, as previously mentioned, was mainly focussed around the shape of Made in UK models, and in particular, the 1500, and if ever we were looking for answers to questions, this was bound to be the time we would get them. Anyway, as if the day hadn’t already been surreal enough, being sat at the table with everyone, after all the effort they had made to accommodate us inside of their busy schedules, and then provide their comprehensive history of the NB toe-puff, well, it was the cherry on top, and educational for all involved.

So you’re probably curious as to what was said, right? Like ourselves, there were many looking for answers as to what had happened to the shape over the years, so hopefully the following information can clear some things up. As you can understand, there is a lot of information which cannot be repeated, especially not on to somewhere as public as the internet, but the information provided below should definitely be adequate enough to answer the questions.

If we were to revisit a few years back when we would regard the shape of the UK models as excellent, with that sharp toe shape, then we can do this by simply taking a bunch shoes released from this time, whether they’re GRs or collabs it doesn’t matter. Then if we look at the toe, we’ll notice that it’s for some of the very early releases, there isn’t really any form of toe puff, and then the more recent releases pre-2009 feature do in fact feature a toe puff, but it is nowhere near the same as what is in the shoes currently. Back then, rather than using a piece of material, the toe puff was an adhesive which was melted and brushed on in a half moon shape, and this method was very inconsistent, which is why if you look at any number of shoes from this time, none of the toe shapes are the same, they all vary. Unfortunately, this old technique does not now meet official global quality control, technical and environment standards, and no brand anywhere in the world could use it if they wanted to.

To counter the inability to use this technique, NB had to come up with a new toe puff, and this came in the form of a piece of material from a German company, and it done everything NB needed it to do, it met all global standards, and in fact, it was of a higher construction standard as far as a performance shoe requirement goes, and at this time, the 1500 was still regarded as a performance shoe, more so than a lifestyle shoe. However, the general aesthetics of the shoe never appealed to everyone, and the various complaints were starting to be noticed.

You may remember that in 2012, the 1500CHF was released, a collaboration between New Balance UK and hanon shop of Aberdeen, and this shoe somehow managed to have a hugely better shape in comparison to anything released before it. Like yourselves, we have always wondered why, and we finally got an answer to this question. Basically, there has been years of trying to redevelop the toe puff behind the scenes, and as you can imagine, this is no easy feat, but the CHF features a different toe puff from the one used after the old adhesive method was ditched, and in actual fact, it is the same toe puff that is used in all models currently, except the 991, and any shoe that has a leather tip.

Obviously, using various toe puffs is a bit of a nightmare for the factory when manufacturing the shoes, and in an ideal world, they would use the same toe puff for every shoe, no matter the model, and no matter what material it is made out of. So this has lead to further research and development of the toe puff for the last couple of years, with many more companies and attempts at nailing down the ‘perfect puff’.

The amount of research and development that has been ongoing for a number of years now behind the scenes was certainly surprising to us. Even once research and development is done, there is still testing to be done on all the various materials, and making sure that there are no issues during the manufacturing processes, but what we can say is that things have been moving along very quickly, it’s being worked on, and sometime in the near future, there are big things to come!

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We were lucky enough to watch two models being made, the first was a 1500, and the pictures below should hopefully go through the processes almost step by step, from putting the panels together, to joining the midsole to the upper.

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After checking out the 1500 being made, we followed around a 576 line, and the processes are the same, but as the opportunity to visit the factory is so rare, we weren’t going to say no, that was for sure!

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Along with the factory, there is also a factory shop which can be a bit of a hit and miss, but always well worth a look with plenty of shoes on discount, and a nice range of New Balance aparell to boot.

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Adidas Originals Rouge event @ hanon shop

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Pictures from Mod Culture

The Adidas Rouge has been causing quite a stir for a while now, as it is a special shoe for many Adidas collectors, often found in the same sentence as the word ‘grail’, and with the release of the reissue upcoming, you can only begin to imagine..

This shoe is set to see it’s first release since way back in 1976 when they were made in Austria, so as you might have gathered, coming across a vintage pair is pretty tough coming, and Adidas fans have been screaming for a reissue for years now. With Adidas having pretty much reissued every other shoe under the sun, it’s a wonder why we’ve had to wait so long for this one.

Anyway, Rouge is the French word for ‘Red’, and the shoe itself features a soft red bovine suede upper with contrasting royal blue leather drei-streifen and heel tab. The reissue will also feature a suede tongue, and everyone’s favourite gum sole.

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To celebrate the launch of the Rouge, Adidas Originals and hanon shop came together and put on a pop-up shop on Thursday 30th of October. The shoes would be available to purchase on the night, with various types of French food available to eat and plenty of Parisian beer to wash it down.

With the event kicking off at 6pm, and a couple of days before the official release, this gave punters the opportunity to grab their pair before everyone else, and a lengthy queue had already formed for opening.

As always with Adidas of late, they’ve been bang on with their graphics, and artwork was done by a man who seems to be making big moves of late, and thoroughly deserved, with his own recent Adidas collaboration, Peter O’Toole (@peterotooleart on Instagram). The clean typography was compiled by Lucas Jubb (@ljjubb on Instagram) and all graphics looked excellent, a really great job by those involved.

Some Stockholms were also on display along with the Rouge to coincide with their reissue later in the year, but unfortunately, it was my pair of 08 Stockholms on display rather than the reissue which only has some subtle changes, namely the sole unit.

Many people seemed to just come down to pick up a pair of Rouge, but a big shout to all those new and old faces who stayed around, drank some uber strong beer, ate all the food, and talked all things trainers. Also, a massive thanks to both Adidas and hanon shop for the hospitality. Until next time!

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