New Balance Made in USA Distinct Collection: Explore by Sea

Subtle nautical influences and Horween leather accents mark the footwear brand's four new styles

Taking inspiration from national parks, mid-century modern design and vintage skiwear, Boston-based New Balance‘s Made in USA series pays tribute to the country’s history and culture with its thematic releases—while emphasizing its efforts in domestic production. (They own five factories in New England and make or assemble more than four million pairs of shoes per year in the US). There are three different Made in USA tiers: the premium and limited edition Bespoke (full Horween leather), middle-ground Distinct (suede details and Horween leather accents), and entry-line Connoisseur. NB’s latest theme, Explore by Sea, has already released a few Bespoke designs, and upcoming are four new Distinct Explore by Sea styles (in 997, 998, 1300 and 1700)—two of which we got an up-close look at.

“Our overarching design direction for our S/S16 design season was ‘Explore,’ due to the recent emphasis on personal travel and experiences,” Lead Lifestyle Footwear Designer Jodi Klann tells CH. “We decided ‘Explore by Sea’ would be a perfect story to tell for the Made in USA collection for spring 2016, not only for design and color inspiration, but because of the connection back to New England and the early American explorers who first settled here. To get additional design inspiration, we visited the USS Constitution and took a lot of reference pictures.”

“The color palette was inspired by the colors of that era; off-whites, rich browns and soft neutrals,” she continues. For example, the maroon colorway (pictured above right) was inspired by the rich brown and burgundy tones found on the wooden ships. “The 998 took specific color inspiration from the hues of vegetation in the sea. The materials chosen were rich vegetable tanned leathers, used all over and in accents, to harken back to the animal skins they would have used for clothing and trade. The canvas material also connects back to the type of fabric they would of used for clothing, which was traditionally was made from a natural fiber like hemp.”

The four new Made in USA Distinct Collection: Explore by Sea styles launch on 1 March 2016 from New Balance.

Jermain Todd of St Louis-based custom furniture studio Mwanzi models the 998 Distinct Explore by Sea images courtesy of New Balance, all other close-up product images by Nara Shin