Beatle founder Paul McCartney famously went vegetarian in 1975, beginning a celebrity trend that continues through today with performers like A$AP Rocky and Billy Eilish shunning livestock products. Not only do these stars not consume meat, but they also don’t wear animal-tested goods or allow beast-made clothing or furniture at venues hosting their shows.
These animal-free lifestyles helped to shape the current moment with the emergence of dozens of meat alternative foods and sans-animal apparel. This January, the Boston-based New Balance shoe company jumped on board the creature-free product train.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of its 1982-released 990, New Balance transformed the iconic 990V5 into a 100% vegan sneaker. Served up in the shoe manufacturer’s signature gray, the shoe has been updated with sustainability in mind. This is punctuated with a vicious, glow-green ‘V’ on the heel logo to affirm the shoe’s vegan progeny. From panels to swatches, New Balance has traded pig suede and creamy cowskin for soft, buttery, plant-based materials.
New Balance’s vegan-friendly MADE 990V5 sports vegan leather on the shoe’s uppers with three-quarters and heel cups overlaid in plastic. The sneaker’s midsole is made with ENCAP — a core of soft cushioning of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), which helps to disperse weight and provide stability. The foam-like material is lightweight, flexible, and cushions the foot with each step. This is topped with a tough polyurethane rim for more support and durability and sits atop an-all rubber outsole (shoe bottom).
New Balance has updated the 990V5’s with subtle shifts from the original model over the years. These tweaks are based on maintaining and upgrading the sneaker’s performance-centered engineering. White soles set off the 990V5’s gray grain and a steel label still proudly claims the runner’s American pride with a “Made in the USA” label.
At least 70% of the MADE collection has been manufactured in the United States for over 75 years. Though this percentage may not be enough for class action plaintiffs, the company told The Fashion Law that it “takes pride in our longstanding commitment to domestic manufacturing — it is a valued part of our heritage and culture,” asserting that its “four New England-based factories currently employ approximately 1,000 Americans who work to produce our athletic footwear.”
Branding disputes aside, New Balance makes an honest effort to show its corporate responsibility in order to maintain its reputation and to keep up with changing times. The Guardian found that some surveys suggest rapid growth in vegan lifestyles, citing a possible 40% increase from 2020 alone. McCartney may have looked like an eccentric star with his shunning of animal products in the mid-1970s, but this stance is truly mainstream in 2022. And one of America’s largest shoe companies is showing its dedication to this sustainable practice that promotes creature kindness in classic silhouettes.
New Balance is releasing only a limited number of the vegan MADE 990v5 sneakers. They’re available for a suggested retail price of $185 at select global retailers and NewBalance.com while supplies last.
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