When it comes to collaborations in the sneaker world, storytelling can often be just as important as design or execution. It is easy to say that a shoe looks good or bad, but a good story behind the design can add an extra element of depth that brings a collab to life.
Any time Boston-based retailer Concepts gets involved in the collaborative process, you can bet there is going to be some detailed backstory behind the shoe, and its upcoming New Balance 992 is no exception.
Boston is usually the source of inspiration for Concepts creative director Deon Point’s collabs, but that is certainly not the case this time around. With a theme clearly inspired by fruit, Point explains that the driving influence behind the narrative was a woman that went by the nickname “Kiwi Queen” in the 1950s.
Frieda Caplan essentially changed the way that fruit was marketed to the United States, introducing fruits to Los Angeles that hadn’t been around since the 1800s. Physically, the 992 sneaker resembles a kiwi, utilizing hairy suede to convey the fruit’s outer layer, and a bright green hue on the model’s signature “N” and sole to mimic its inside. An all-over strawberry pattern takes shape on the entirety of the insole.
No Concepts collab would be complete without an intricate box design, as we have seen in the past with a number of lobster crates, a Thanksgiving turkey oven with all the fixins, Egyptian themes for Kyrie Irving, and more. This 992 comes housed in a fruit crate of sorts meant to pay homage to vintage methods of fruit delivery.
For more on the upcoming Concepts x New Balance 992 “Low Hanging Fruit,” which releases on November 12 for $240, check out our full interview with Deon Point below.
The conversation has been edited for clarity.
Can you speak to the inspiration behind the overall design of this shoe?
Initially, we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary going into next year. I kinda had this fixation on these oddly popular beverage companies like Fruitopia, Orbitz, and this weird juice craze that hit in the ’90s. You might even remember Snapple had kiwi strawberry, they introduced it to the world and then it really caught on, it was just a super weird trend.
When I researched kiwi, it took a turn towards this woman noted as the Kiwi Queen. Her name is Frieda Caplan. She’s from Los Angeles and basically she was the first woman in the produce market in LA back in like, the ’50s. What she did was she took on fruits and stuff that nobody was actually checking for. So she introduced kiwi into the United States, which had been the first fruit [introduced] outside of the banana since like the 1800s, so it was really odd. And then she just went on this whole tour introducing fruits from spaghetti squash, the dragon fruit, and the jack fruit to the United States. But I thought it was cool because she basically re-imagined how to sell fruit in the US. She had like a crazy marketing team and her team consisted of all women. So I thought the kind of underlying storyline was her dominating a male market with an all-female team. I wanted to pay homage to that and I thought it was really interesting and there’s actually a documentary about it called Fear No Fruit. And then just kind of just fruit with fashion on the runway. Specifically strawberries and bananas. Prada has used it over the years, so has Gucci and some of the bigger fashion houses.
How did you and your team come up with the specific colorblocking and materials for this sneaker? And how does it feel to finally get a collaboration on the New Balance 992 after dropping the two store exclusive versions last year?
So the store exclusives our team actually didn’t touch, that was via New Balance, we were kind of just the conduit for that. So this is the first one that we’d actually worked on. I wanted to keep some muted earth tones, but I did feel like what I’ve seen in the marketplace was a little bit stagnant. Not a knock to anybody else, I just wanted a splash of color in there. But I didn’t want it to be like, a full clown shoe. I wanted to do something a little bit more unique so by adding that little strip or color it really helped it pop. And I made a plan with the translucent materials and such. I’m not really sure how I ended up on kiwi, I really wanted to work with that nappy suede that they use and I love that color. I don’t eat kiwi by the way, I’ve never even tried it.
So similarly with the Lobster Dunk stories, the same old thing, every time I make a food shoe, it’s usually something I despise. I just thought it was cool. I always thought that fruit, when cut open, looked good. I like the smoothness and then the translucency comes out from our side with that kind of fuzzy exterior of the kiwi. So yeah, that is one of the simpler designs for sure but it’s actually one of my favorites.
Any time Concepts makes a collaborative sneaker, everybody always has to look at the box. I assume this one is inspired by a fruit crate, but can you speak a bit more to the design?
We had some supply issues just like anybody else right now. I think we had a more elaborate box planned but we had to kind of pivot and adjust. So this is going to be like a vintage look at how produce was shipped over the years and specifically that timeframe. So it’s kind of like a vintage wooden box, we kind of re-appropriated a label on it and I think some of the boxes will say New Balance 992 on them and some of them won’t just because of a supply chain issue. But it was pretty simplistic in form and then we just kind of let the color pop. I thought for this one the shoe could speak a little louder than the packaging ’cause—I wouldn’t say it’s safe, it just seems a little bit off the beaten path of what people are used to seeing from us. So I just wanted the shoe to be the highlight and that the packaging just be an accent for that.
So obviously New Balance is having an enormous moment in the sneaker world right now, but you have been working with them for years. How does it feel to have such a storied history with the brand and finally see them get their flowers in the more public eye?
I think we’ve experienced a couple of really impactful New Balance runs. So this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen, but I think it’s exploded with a whole new wave of consumers. Specifically a more youthful group than we’re used to seeing. So I think that the coolest aspect of it all is that even though the 992 is a staple and it’s certainly one of the pillars of their catalog, I think they’re just having an explosive moment across the board with some of the new stuff that they’re introducing. As much as we love to be able to get our hands on something like this that’s so important to the culture, I think it’s cool to see them get some wins on stuff that they just introduced into the marketplace. And that to me is like what helps them stand the test of time.