Sep 20, 2023
by James Roberts
New Balance’s Tokyo Design Studio Embraces Material Progress – But It Could Go Further
by James Roberts
Sep 20, 2023

Why does Japan get all the cool stuff? Brands that, over here in the West, can be fairly middle-of-the-road with their output, are given a new lease of life in Japan. I’m thinking The North Face’s Purple Label but also, more recently, New Balance’s Tokyo Design Studio.

Launched in 2018, the Tokyo outpost balances the considered sensibilities of Japanese design with the Dad-cool sportswear vibe of New Balance. And it works. The latest Fall/Winter 2023 collection feels crafted and designed to last through all seasons. It’s comfy fleeces for everyone.

The highlight for us in this FW23 drop is the New Balance Fresh Foam X More Trail. Rendered in dark blue/black with a contrasting gum tread, these kicks are trail and hike-ready thanks to their Vibram MEGAGRIP lugs. They look like they come with standard navy laces, or, for those who want to make their feet pop, there are some bright yellow alternatives.

But what we really like about these sneakers is the upper, made from more than 50% recycled material, and the sole which is a mixture of plant-based materials. That’s as much detail as New Balance are willing to share on these, but it’s not a bad step. For reference, the standard New Balance Fresh Foam X More Trail features a Vibram Ecostep Recycle outsole made from a minimum of 30 percent recycled rubber.

To complement these sneakers, there’s an array of comfy sweats. In the fleece department, there’s a jacket made from flame-retardant materials with thumb holes so you can wear it like a glove. This is paired with fleece pants and caps.

Then there are a load of French Terry items: pants, hoodies and tees. Made with highly durable Cordura heavy fleece, these are quick-drying and should hold up wash after wash. Rounding out the collection are graphic tees made with polyester but designed to protect against UV whilst you’re out on the trails.

The color palette is limited to white, navy and black, with a splash of yellow coming from the piping, logos and drawstrings. It feels like a collection that’s designed to be mixed and matched.

Unfortunately, after the highs of the recycled content in the sneakers, there’s not much to shout about materials-wise in the apparel. Which is a shame, because these are really nicely designed pieces that look well-made and are timeless additions to anyone’s wardrobe.

Basically, while it’s fair to say that the Tokyo Design Studio might be more considered than its American cousin, it’s clear that some more thought needs to go into its material choices and the way those choices are applied across the sub-label’s output. Clearly TDS has the knowledge and, to some degree at least, the desire – it’s just a case of embracing that, wholesale.

New Balance’s Tokyo Design Studio FW23 collection is available to buy from Japan online and in select retailers.