February has been quite the busy month for New Balance, the company whose sneakers were most commonly associated with middle-aged joggers, but is now the darlings of the collab, conceptual and even luxury worlds.
On Groundhog Day, oft-injured L.A. Clippers superstar forward Kawhi Leonard unveiled the New Balance KAWHI III Alpha Predator basketball sneaker that went on sale the following day. A week later, New Balance opened a new retail concept store in Boston, where the company is headquartered.
On Wednesday, and as part of Black History Month, New Balance announced a new, Black-owned sportswear brand called Klutch Athletics, named after the Klutch Sports Group, an agency that represents a number of elite professional athletes that was started by Rich Paul 20 years ago.
“I’m thrilled to create Klutch Athletics to focus on supporting athletes and the communities in which they live and play,” Paul said of the collaboration. “There’s a gap right now that we can fill—creating training product that is functional, but with style. We’ve seen other brands moving away from youth sports and training, so we’re focused on bringing the new look of training for the next generation. And there’s no one better than New Balance to build this with. I have a long history with them, I know we share similar values, and everything they are doing right now from product to athletes to collaborations is leading culture.”
According to New Balance, the initial apparel lines coming out from the Klutch collab will feature the brand’s “iconic greys, fading from the darkest to the lightest gray in the palette, delivering a compelling color narrative. The greys will be complemented by a touch of green, representing where young athletes first fell in love with the game on their field of play.”
New Balance chief marketing officer and SVP of merchandising Chris Davis said the partnership with a cultural icon like Paul will set this new line apart even as Adidas just days ago also dropped a new sportswear line.
“Rich has deep cultural roots in the world of sport and together we will realize a vision that has yet to be seen by the modern-day athlete,” Davis said. “We always strive to take a differentiated approach —this partnership truly exemplifies our independent mindset as a brand.”
New Balance says the line will be available for purchase starting April 27 online and at select retail locations with prices ranging from $40 for T-shirts to $120 for hoodies.
By then, shoppers in the Boston area can shop Klutch items in addition to the latest Kawhi kicks at a wood-rich conceptual store at 124 Newbury Street, which opened on Feb. 8.
The concept seeks to pair assorted merchandise with a comfortable living room-type space, meant to illuminate “New Balance at the intersection of sport and culture,” the company said in a press release.
“This store represents a big step forward in the way we think about our retail environment, featuring a much tighter, more focused collection built specifically for the younger consumer,” said Ian Fitzpatrick, senior director of global brand strategy and operations. “The space is not built to tell all our stories, just those most relevant to our consumers—a shift that reflects our intention to invite new audiences to discover the brand, maybe for the first time.”
The night Kawhi Leonard laced up in his Alpha Predators for the first time, the five-time NBA All-Star went for 17 points on just 7-of-26 shooting in a one-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, but two nights later Leonard put up 35 points and was a perfect 12-of-12 from the line in an overtime win over the New York Knicks.
“Working with the New Balance design team is always exciting,” Leonard said in a press release. “The KAWHI III brings new technology that allows me to take my game to the next level, and that’s super important to me and I am excited for other players to be able to experience it.”
According to the release, the KAWHI III model uses “full-length FuelCell cushioning system combined with Energy Arc, that pairs a sport-specific carbon fiber plate geometry with strategic midsole voids, designed to increase stored energy to deliver a higher amount of total energy return.”