"Bringing back a MADE shoe is more challenging and you have to approach it with respect. " - Taylor Canby, Creative Design Manager at New Balance
From the successful launch of the OG colourways at the end of 2020, to the impressive lineup of collaborations, hype generated from the Refined Future Pack and an array of solid inline colours, the New Balance 2002R has garnered a strong following globally and has cemented its status as a hero model for the Boston-based brand across the sneaker and street-fashion spectrum.
We pull back the development and design curtain of this bring back classic with Tetsuya Shono (Lifestyle GBU Director of Trend & Energy) and Taylor Canby (Creative Design Manager) of New Balance, to gain more insights behind the phenomenon that is the New Balance 2002R.
Tell us about the origins of the 2002?
TETSUYA SHONO (TS): The 1000 series from New Balance was originally the most premium Made in USA line at the time, and included the highest technology.
In 2010, when the MR2002 was released, it was the successor to the 2001. At the same time, a more performance-oriented model, the MR1906, was also released. Both the MR2002 and the MR1906 introduced a full length Nergy technology in the sole unit.
The 2002 went pretty much under-the-radar, even up till the launch of the 2002R. What made New Balance decide to revive it as the 2002R?
(TS): In early 2018, while planning for 2nd half of 2020, I felt that a new model could be explored, one that could support the 990 series without overlapping it. The opportunity to reissue the 2002 was always at the back of my mind. Plus, I’m a huge fan of the original and wear it regularly.
There were feelings that a segment of sneaker fans was looking forward to a reissue of the model too. Initially, it wasn’t planned to launch in 2020, due to the development process. But as it turned out, the timing was perfect, as it was the 10th anniversary of the shoe.
Why was the original full-length Nergy sole unit not used?
(TS): The original sole did not exist anymore. It would have been nice if we could reproduce the original sole unit and “MADE” version, but that was not possible. However, the positive outcome was a more flexible development process in Asia which gave the 2002 a new design opportunity and quicker lead time to hit the market for consumers.
What were some of the challenges faced in the development and design process to bring the 2002R to life?
(TS) Selecting a sole unit that relates to the last, which also affects the overall silhouette of the shoe. This decision was interconnected to many design and development elements of the shoe, it’s like putting a puzzle together.
After much consideration, the 860V2 sole unit was chosen. Matching the upper design of the 2002 to the new sole unit was the next challenge. We were confident it would be compatible, but could only be certain upon sampling.
The aim was to accurately reproduce the upper design, texture and color of the original, especially the gray nubuck. This wasn’t a major concern as I knew that Taylor, who’s in charge of the design, was the best at what he does.
TAYLOR CANBY: Bringing back a “MADE” shoe is more challenging and you have to approach it with respect. We paid a high level of attention to find the right materials to match the original look, even down to the stitching margins on the upper. I scrutinized the shape and spent a lot of time colour and material matching, as we wanted to do it right and emulate that “MADE” feel on an Asian-made shoe. Plus, the original designer, Andrew Nyssen, is still at the company and you want to ensure that you do justice to the original designer’s intent.
The 2002R has been a major success globally. Did you anticipate the reaction it received and what contributed to consumers taking to it?
(TS): The sample we developed was so good that I was very excited and had a quiet confidence that it would be a successful addition to the Lifestyle stable for the brand.
I believe with the 2002R, we were able to match the needs and moods of the consumer with the quality and authenticity of New Balance. There were fans who were expecting a reissue of the 2002, but more importantly, the 2002R gained a new audience and the response to the original inline color was so great that it sold out immediately when it launched.
It’s great to see a cult model from the brand garner commercial acclaim with a reissue. What are your hopes for the 2002R going forward?
(TS): The 2002 is an important part of the history of the 1000 series for New Balance. With the reissue, we hope the success of the 2002R will make it an evergreen model that stands the test of time, and be worn again and again.
Thanks to New Balance, Tetsuysa Shono and Taylor Canby for the interview. All photos courtesy of New Balance.