22 June 2022

END. shines a spotlight on a selection of coveted releases from New Balance and Aimé Leon Dore’s harmonious ongoing partnership.

In recent years, New Balance has had a meteoric rise in the contemporary sneaker sphere, largely thanks to the label’s unwavering commitment to premium quality and a growing, collective love of understated, refined and chunky sneakers. But there has been another key component in New Balance’s position as one of the biggest tastemakers in the sneaker world, and that’s a Queen’s based label and its founder: Teddy Santis' Aimé Leon Dore.

Teddy Santis is, first and foremost, an appreciator of New Balance’s vast archives — a longstanding wearer and lover of the brand’s array of sought-after sneakers. It’s this passion that’s been channeled into every collaboration between the Queens label and the Massachusetts-based brand, resulting in refined, elevated takes on already-premium sneakers. Since their first encounter in April 2019 — where the two marked the occasion by reworking the 997 — New Balance and Aimé Leon Dore have went from strength to strength, establishing themselves as one of the biggest collaborative powerhouses in the contemporary sneaker world.  

END. takes a look back at some of the coveted releases from New Balance and Aimé Leon Dore throughout the past three years, showcasing what makes them one of the most sought-after partnerships in contemporary fashion.

New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 997 Yellow Tongue
New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 997 Yellow Tongue (2019)

New Balance and Aimé Leon Dore kickstarted their collaborative partnership by reworking the label’s 997: a premium retro runner that perfectly reflected the nostalgia that ran through the Queens-based label. The inaugural collection was a two-piece capsule, with a duo of sneakers that showcased Teddy Santis’ ability to deliver something vibrant in a tasteful, considered way. Both pairs utilised a subtle, typical-of-New balance base made up of premium suede and mesh, then paired this with vibrant, contrasting pops of colour. The most notable distinction between the two releases was their respective yellow and purple tongues.

Equally as memorable from the collection was the marketing campaign which accompanied it, with an older gentleman, dressed in a quintessentially New York outfit and wearing the 997s, above “The Intelligent Choice”. This was a subtle nod to a vintage New Balance advert, showcasing Teddy Santis' deep appreciation for not just his heritage, but also New Balance’s.  

New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 990 V5
New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 990 V5 "Life in the Balance" (2019)

Continuing to spotlight New Balance’s famous 99x range — a love which continues to this very day — Aimé Leon Dore and New Balance returned later in 2019 with two iterations of the 990: the V2 and the V5. The V5 represented a combination of contemporary and heritage, capturing the retro aesthetic that remains a key tenet of Aimé Leon Dore. The sneaker’s pigskin suede and breathable mesh uppers came in a navy blue and green colourway, delivering that classic, preppy-leaning style synonymous with Aimé Leon Dore. As to be expected with the two labels’ partnerships, the marketing campaign was equally as standout, with video content depicting a Land Rover Defender 90 being driven into the wilderness, as well as more advertisements of senior people dressed in Aimé Leon Dore’s streetwear-meets-sartorial aesthetic.

New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 550 White & Red
New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 550 White & Red (2020)

In 2020, Teddy Santis deftly displayed two things he holds a deep appreciation for: digging deep into the New Balance archives and basketball. What resulted was the 550, a chunky, court-focused sneaker with a distinctly-retro aesthetic. To many, the sneaker seemed like a brand-new silhouette, but actually debuted in 1989 and was designed by the legendary Steven Smith.

Teddy Santis stumbled upon the sneaker — then called the P550 — in an old magazine, with the silhouette instantly standing out for its retro charm and simple, goes-with-anything aesthetic. What he then did was seek out to revive the shoe, something which would prove difficult, given it had faded into relative obscurity. After sourcing a pair from a Japanese collector, Teddy Santis and New Balance set about accurately replicating the sneaker, releasing it in white and red, navy blue, grey and green colourways. The sneaker was an instant hit, marking the beginning of the 550’s rise to global popularity.

New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 1300 "Botanical Green"
New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 1300 "Botanical Green" (2020)

New Balance and Teddy Santis both share a meticulous approach to details, favouring subtlety and nuance over anything brash. In 2020, New Balance and Aimé Leon Dore reunited to focus heavily on that, bringing the made in the US 1300 under the spotlight. The capsule comprised of two iterations — one in “Botanical Green”, the other in “Dusty Pink” — with both featuring hairy suede across their uppers. Chunky, contrasting white laces and co-branded tongue patches were both used for low-key detailing. The sneakers originally released with a pre-order option in 2020, though they restocked, much to fan’s delight, in 2021.

New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 550 White, Red & Navy (2021)
New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 550 White, Red & Navy (2021)

Given the success of the New Balance 550, both as a collaborative sneaker and as a wider release, Teddy Santis revisiting it was something that seemed inevitable. In 2021, Santis was back to further cement the sneaker’s status as a mainstay, with two clean colourways that reflected his — and indeed the 550’s — retro aesthetic. The colourway that received a wider release took on a predominantly white hue, with navy blue and red accents used for a subtle pop of colour.

New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 993 "Taupe"
New Balance x Aimé Leon Dore 993 "Taupe" (2021)

In late 2021, Teddy Santis made his return to the much-loved 99x range, unveiling two iterations of the 993: the “Taupe” and “Beef and Broccoli". Both represented a nod to Aimé Leon Dore’s New York heritage; the “Beef and Broccoli”, which was exclusive to ALD, was derived from a famous Timberland colourway, one that represents a favourite amongst New York culture. The “Taupe” colourway, pictured above, was rumoured to be inspired by the colours of Subway trains in the early ‘90s, with an off-white, purple and navy colourway used.

What Aimé Leon Dore and New Balance represent is a harmonious partnership born out of shared ideals: classic design, premium craft and elevated detailing. It’s a relationship that shows no signs of slowing down, with a slew of releases continuing to truly define the zeitgeist in the contemporary sneaker sphere. From continuing the much-loved string of 550s, to shining a spotlight on icons from the Made in the UK range, Aimé Leon Dore’s partnerships with New Balance are a product of two labels with a deep affinity and a shared passion for craft and authentic storytelling.

writerJack Grayson