New Balance's latest collaboration sees them partnering not with a brand, but rather with a creative force behind the brand, Versace's Vice President of Sneakers & Footwear, Salehe Bembury. For the Salehe Bembury x New Balance 2002R "Peace Be The Journey", the longtime sneaker designer sought to use his first solo collaboration to fully express his creative vision without the restraints he normally encounters while working for a brand. "In some cases, a larger operation may have too many opinions that can influence a product negatively," Bembury says. "This collaboration allowed me to dissolve any distracting noise and create exactly what I envisioned.”
What Bembury has envisioned is a shoe that combines New Balance's running heritage with high-end materials and styling, and his love of the outdoors. In an effort to stand out from the raft of 992 collabs and special releases that were coming out this year, Bembury chose the recently reissued early-aughts 2002R silhouette as the model for his first ever collaboration.
While this model was originally designed for running, Bembury channeled his daily hiking as inspiration. A 4,000 foot hike up a mountain every day at the height of Covid-19 and the George Floyd protests gave him a sense of peace above the chaos of the world, hence the "Peace Be The Journey" moniker given to the shoe. "I found myself in this extremely peaceful place sometimes actually above the clouds. That's where I kind of came up with concept of "Peace Be the Journey," because I was taking these long journeys to this peaceful, almost utopian-like place."
The hiking theme carried over to the shoe's look as well, using the Southwestern color palette found at National Parks like Bryce Canyon and Antelope Canyon as the basis for the project's aesthetic. The upper conveys the region's earthy hues with a mix of burnt orange hairy and smooth suede accented with bright yellow nylon mesh on the toebox, throat and collar, and burnished full-grain brown leather and smooth maroon leather patches sprinkled throughout.
Sky blue branding on the tongue tag, 'Salehe Bembury' leather throat strip and shearling 'N' logo on the side provide a welcome pop of contrast, while tonal laces and a co-branded cork insole finish off the details. For the base the shoe's original midsole is swapped out for a speckled 860v2 N-ERGY unit with a maroon rubber outsole. The shoes come packaged in a special box covered in an illustration of Arizona's Antelope Canyon, allowing the wearer to draw a straight line from the shoe's colors to the setting that inspired them.
The Salehe Bembury x New Balance 2002R "Peace Be The Journey" will release on Friday, October 23rd @ 10:00am, and is only available via digital in-store raffle.
Photos by Evan Kaucher
Salehe Bembury quotes courtesy of Complex and Hypebeast.