Taking things beyond classic
New Balance Japan has been working with GORE-TEX products for several years. It’s a highly reliable material that is both waterproof and breathable. Using the GORE-TEX brand in our products increases the user's trust. With a GORE-TEX brand hangtag, wearers immediately recognize that the shoe is highly functional and meets a certain standard even if they don’t know any other details about the shoe — they know that it works and that is what matters.
I feel like today’s lifestyle calls for shoes that perform at a higher level than classic shoes do. There is no change in the policy we have come up with so far. Because New Balance is a performance brand, it’s essential that the base has a performance function, even if it is a lifestyle category. Everything in the world is convenient now and I think that the users’ standards for sporting goods are getting higher, especially when it comes to functions like waterproofing and moisture management. The demand for functions like those has increased because everyone can experience the benefits in everyday life. Also, I think the actual lifestyles of people have changed — sports have now become a core part of our lives, and those performance and lifestyle scenes are becoming more seamless and fused than ever before.
Local needs mean technology matters
I still think there are differences in a user’s character depending on their specific region. Users in Japan have a particularly high need for waterproofing and breathability as featured technologies. The weather in Japan makes a breathable technology like GORE-TEX extremely useful — the weather can can go from warm to extremely wet quite suddenly, which makes the fabric extremely useful here.
From a design point of view, when it comes to developing lifestyle products, it seems that users in Japan have a tendency to prefer things that are more familiar to street fashion than outdoor designs. Despite that, I think there has always been this interest in technology and performance here when it comes to sportswear. Users in Japan are quite interested in sportswear technology and attention to detail, and I think they like to have these technologies applied to those lifestyle products.
As the line between the performance and lifestyle scenes becomes more ambiguous than ever before, lifestyle products have taken on more and more high-tech features. By adding more performance functions and performance, products become more fashionable and can be used in lifestyle scenes to cater to that crossover. I believe that this fusion will continue in the future.
High standards partnered with high standards
Since we are constantly striving to provide the best products to our users, we have a high degree of trust in GORE-TEX products. New Balance has never been marketed as cheap because it never compromises, and that attitude of product development without compromise and absolute functionality as a top priority certainly parallels how the GORE-TEX brand operates. Its value is in its performance.
I feel that every New Balance product that features GORE-TEX products is a great example of our partnership. We use it whenever we need it. For example, we’re planning to release a limited series of lifestyle boots using the technology that were designed in our Tokyo design studio for the upcoming fall/winter collection.
We’ve worked on several things that could be considered collaborations—I enjoy the process, even when the challenges involved are not always easy to overcome. On any project it is good to push each other to bring out the best in each other’s products. In order to meet our brand’s standards for high-quality, factories that can produce GORE-TEX products are limited when it comes to shoes. Also, we need to pass not only the New Balance quality standard, but the GORE-TEX brand standard as well. So the bar is high. Since we have to meet standards that high, we find ourselves working very closely together. We take pride in our high quality products and craftsmanship and in our pursuit of quality we have to meet the standards of our partner as well, so it is definitely challenging.
Author: Jörg Haas, Philipp Ulbrich