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Joe Freshgoods Serves As Creative Director For New Balance's 'Conversations Among Us' Campaign
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New Balance has officially unveiled its highly-anticipated “Conversations Amongst Us Collection,” which was creatively directed by none other than designer and culture curator Joe Freshgoods. For this specific collaboration, “JFG” founder Joe Robinson directly collaborated with an all-Black product team at New Balance known as The Black Soles. This team of Black creatives includes Associate Product Managers and Designers, Jordan Johnson and Kevin Trotman to drive forward an intentionally designed collection. This collection follows the unisex release of New Balance x Joe Freshgoods MADE in USA 990v3, which was known as the “Outside Clothes” installation that paid homage to the childhood nostalgia of playing outside during the summertime.
The campaign video, which was circulated around both brands’ social media accounts, features NBA athlete Kawhi Leonard and pays tribute to a Black man’s nod, which served as “a gesture encapsulating how Black men have communicated with one another for centuries,” according to a press release sent to ESSENCE. Officially launched on April 15, the collection is available on newbalance.com and focuses on lifestyle silhouettes of the 2002R ($130.00) and 550 ($120.00). The collection includes, but is not limited to, graphic tees, a fleece hoodie, crewneck, and pants, with suggested retail pricing ranging between $40.00 and $85.00.
This week, Joe Freshgoods announced another New Balance collaboration, for the New Balance 9060 “Inside Voices” installation, which will be dropping in two weeks. According to HYPEBEAST, Joe Freshgoods has been dropping hints at the 9060 collaboration since the top of 2022, but now fans of the designer and brand can indulge in the suede overlay and “JFG” branding in just a few short weeks. The “Inside Voices” collaboration will hit the shelves in May 2022, featuring multiple sets of shoelaces in red, sail, and white, and subtle green accents on the ankle collar and tongue.
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Following the launch of the New Balance collaboration with Joe Fresh Goods, ESSENCE caught up with Kevin Trotman, Associate Product Manager – Global Collaborations & Energy, and Jordan Johnson, Associate Product Manager & Designer – Global Collaborations & Energy. Dive into the conversation to learn more about how the opportunity to collaborate came about, how they each played a role in the product rollout and more exciting news from the New Balance team.
ESSENCE: First thing’s first, how did the collaboration between Joe Freshgoods and New Balance come about?
Kevin Trotman: The inception of the relationship really started back in 2019 when we went out to ComplexCon, and he was in Chicago. We were just walking around the venue, and Joe’s booth was absolutely ridiculous; there was a line wrapped around like three times. It was obvious he had a ridiculous presence in Chicago, but I think his day one fans were there, too. We saw something there. We had to plan something for All-Star Weekend that following year and as it was in Chicago, we thought Joe would be a great partner. We ended up meeting with him [at the] end of 2019.
We did his first [No Emotions Are Emotions] 992 project in a ridiculously short timeline. It literally took probably about five months, when usually, at that time anyway, it was taking around eight to 12 months to confirm a made-in-USA product. The inception of Kawhi and Joe’s relationship started then too because we did the Kawhi’s to go along with that collection. That’s kind of how it really started and obviously, these past couple of years, the relationship has grown and [is] definitely not stopping.
ESSENCE: What role did each of you play in this collaboration?
Jordan Johnson: I’m speaking for Kev first because I was like the Robin to his Batman in this instance because he was the main product manager. [Kevin] led everything from setting up the codes in our system to giving us the creative direction behind where we wanted to go model-wise, mix-wise, how many pairs we wanted to do, and what made sense from the business standpoint. I played the designer role this time. I am a product manager right now, and I’m an associate product manager on the global collaborations team. I work on Tokyo Design Studio products, as well as some of our individual collaborators, like Jaden Smith and Storm Reid. I’ve designed the Black History Month collection for the past three years since its inception in 2020, and this is actually the first year of our Black Experience collection. It’s kind of taking on a new identity and theme.
In terms of storytelling and making sure everything fits with what Joe Freshgoods was doing, my job was to make sure that our story connected to what we were doing in the past with this collection and as Black Soles, but also making sure it made sense with what Joe Freshgoods was doing with his other New Balance collaborations. We knew at the end of the day, that although this wasn’t a Joe Freshgoods traditional collaboration, this is an inline product pushed by the inline team. Joe Freshgoods was the creative director on top of it. Our job was really to make sure that everything seamlessly went together, and make sure that our stories were aligned with what Joe wanted to tell as well.