Cockroaches and New Balance in Rotterdam

How the Brand and Some Dutch Designers Worked Together

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When big brands loosen up and allow smaller players to take over the creative reins for a bit, good things happen. Here's an example from an unexpected place, the Dutch city of Rotterdam, perhaps best known as a once-great port and for continuing to fight while much of Holland surrendered to the invading Germans during World War II. Its perseverance has led the nuclear-winter-impervious cockroach to become something of a symbol that has even crawled into local football culture.

Now the symbol has helped provide the backstory for a limited-edition sneaker for New Balance. The story of how the design came together is a case in how reaching out to the right creative resources can end up yielding something totally unexpected. The brand gave the designers, Lijfstijl, tons of freedom, allowing them to create a sample shoe that New Balance tweaked. The end product ended up representing the city's architecture and had some flourishes, such as a purple color meant to represent the creative freedom of the place.

Following bigger rivals like Nike and Adidas, New Balance has made limited-edition designs a bigger part of its operations, recently hiring Mother to handle its lifestyle advertising. There have been limited-edition issues in Europe already, but as the designers said in an interview with, this new push has come rather organically.

"We don't think that New Balance itself is pushing it so hard, but more the people that just love the brand, like us. We call New Balance the 'Bentley' of sneakers. Because the quality and the materials are always top notch, and that is the same with the models. A few years back only Nike and a few others had collaborations so there were a lot of people that followed that. Right now we think that more people are realizing that there is more than only the limited-edition models from the bigger brands. And we think it is the same for the shops. We just like the fact that they never did big ad campaigns, but just let the product and quality speak for itself."
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