New Balance Vision Racer: A Sustainable Collaboration
The New Balance Vision Racer is the signature shoe of rapper, actor, philanthropist, and son of famous actor Will Smith, Jaden Smith. Boston-based footwear brand New Balance and Jaden Smith signed a collaboration deal in 2017 as a way for Smith to sell unique sneakers while also focusing on New Balance’s philanthropic efforts and social responsibility.
Jaden Smith prides himself on being authentic, groundbreaking, and beyond traditional fashion. Smith brought that same approach to New Balance and his signature shoe.
The result of this collaboration is the New Balance Vision Racer.
One of the critical elements Jaden Smith honed in on during the design process was the use of sustainable materials. He wanted a shoe that incorporated recycled, vegan-friendly materials from top to bottom and essentially wanted to turn trash into highly desirable shoes. Jaden’s vision for the Vision Racer was to bring sustainability and sneakerheads together and inspire future generations to do better today and help preserve the Earth.
The New Balance x Jaden Smith first dropped during the summer of 2020 for a retail price of 150 USD. The collaboration continues, and the partners have released new colorways of the Vision Racer and other variations of New Balance sneakers, such as the 574. Jaden uses his designs to showcase his creativity and positivity and incorporate sustainable elements into his New Balance releases regardless of the sneaker silhouette.
New Balance Vision Racer Inspiration
The inspiration for the Jaden Smith x New Balance Vision Racer comes from two of Smith’s favorite New Balance shoes: The New Balance X-Racer and the New Balance 1700.
In an interview with Complex, Jaden Smith talked about how the X-Racer and 1700 played a vital role in shaping the Vision Racer:
“Those were my two favorite shoes at the time. We just found a way to mix them.”
Boasting a bold, trendy, and chunky aesthetic, the Vision Racer takes elements from the X-Racer and 1700 and infuses them with Jaden Smith’s signature flair and modern New Balance style. The Vision Racer is a shoe that pushes the boundaries of traditional New Balance design and changes New Balance’s manufacturing process by incorporating a heavy emphasis on recyclable materials.
The Vision Racer’s most eye-catching feature is its thick, almost cartoonish, midsole that gets split into three rectangular blocks. The extra-bulk was a design choice resulting from Jaden’s tendency to put double inserts into his shoes and give himself an additional boost.
Resting on top of the exaggerated midsole is the Vision Racer’s upper, which is a mixture of mesh and suede and directly inspired by the New Balance X-Racer. A traditional New Balance N on the quarter panel is made from a hi-vis reflective material. There is the iconic New Balance NB “speed marks” logo on the heel. The Vision Racer has a translucent outsole, and on each colorway of the Jaden Smith x New Balance Vision Race, a word or phrase is written that is relevant to Jaden and the shoe’s design.
Vision Racer Sustainability Efforts
Much like how his father, Will Smith, helped give Air Jordan sneakers a broader cultural appeal by frequently wearing them in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Jaden wanted to use his celebrity and New Balance collaboration to bring recycled materials and sustainability forefront of sneaker culture.
Although not immediately recognizable, sustainability and social responsibility are at the heart and soul of Vision Racer’s design. Jaden Smith not only designed a sustainable shoe that uses recycled materials, but all the materials used are vegan-friendly as well.
The shoes upper is constructed from various recycled materials, such as recycled polyester from post-consumer plastics. The insoles are made using many materials like recycled foam, castor bean oil, rubber, and virgin polyurethane.
The bulky midsole uses incredibly versatile EVA foam to create a lightweight, comfortable, and heavily cushioned shoe even though it looks heavy. EVA foam is commonly used in sport’s shoes to absorb shock. It is a popular material because it forms to fit the foot, does not hold odors, provides a glossier finish, and is much more cost-effective than traditional rubber.
Sustainability, authenticity, and philanthropy are at the core of the New Balance x Jaden Smith collaboration. When discussing the partnership, New Balance Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President of Merchandise Chris Davis said:
“Shared values of transforming the status quo; staying true to oneself; giving back to the community, and respecting heritage while co-authoring a distinct future, are the foundation of the relationship between New Balance and Jaden Smith.”
An Unlikely Partnership
The Jaden Smith x New Balance Vision Racer collaboration surprised many people when it was first announced.
New Balance is a shoe brand not known for collaborating with people outside of the athletic space, so a partnership with Jaden Smith came out of nowhere.
“We were pretty reticent to move forward with ambassadors representing our brand outside the athletic space,” said Chris Davis, New Balance’s Chief Marketing Officer and vice president of Merchandising.
The partnership has been an excellent addition for New Balance and allows Jaden Smith to expand his philanthropic efforts and increase the sustainability of one of his favorite shoe brands.
Smith’s emphasis on creating a sustainable sneaker allowed New Balance to adapt its supply chain to better incorporate recycled and vegan-friendly materials. Today’s socially responsible business environment boosts New Balance’s green marketing efforts and reputation. It also helps New Balance stay competitive with Nike, which has been at the forefront of the sustainability-led footwear market.
Partnering with Jaden also meant that New Balance had to get involved in his philanthropic efforts, like his goal to bring clean water filtration to Flint, Michigan, and donate food and clothing to members of the homeless population in Los Angeles.
When he’s not acting or making music, Jaden Smith spends his time trying to help people and make the world a more environmentally friendly place. For example, in 2015, Smith co-founded JUST Water, a water company that comes in a bottle made from 90% of plant-derived materials. Smith started the company after seeing a plastic bottle floating next to him while learning to surf in the Pacific Ocean. He could not shake the image of plastic polluting the ocean, so he decided to create a water bottle that came in a sustainable, bio-degradable package.
Jaden Smith also started I Love You, a food truck initiative and restaurant that provides vegan meals to those in need around the Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles. I Love You is a way for homeless people to get free, nutritious, and sustainable food. People who are not homeless can still eat there; however, they have to pay more than their order costs to pay for the person behind them.
With philanthropic and entrepreneurial ventures like JUST Water and I Love You, it’s easy to see that any collaboration with Jaden Smith will require a company to give back to the community, be environmentally friendly, and help those in need. That’s exactly what New Balance has done.
As part of the Vision Racer promotional campaign, Jaden Smith and New Balance donated 300 pairs of Vision Racer sneakers to homeless people in the Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles. Smith wanted to make sure that initial pairs of his Vision Racer sneakers were going to people that actually needed shoes, who would wear them every day and until they were wholly depleted, just like how Jaden wears his shoes.
Vision Racer Colorways
The New Balance x Jaden Smith Vision Racer collaboration has been going strong since its debut in July of 2020. There have since been multiple releases and unique colorways, with Jaden Smith adding elements that are special to him to each new variation.
Although the release frequency of new Vision Racer colorways began to slow in 2021, and no new colorways have been announced for 2022, New Balance or Jaden Smith have not officially stated they are done producing new Vision Racers, and updated colorways could be coming soon.
The Jaden Smith x New Balance Vision Racer Wavy Baby Blue
The first Vision Racer colorway to debut was the Wavy Baby Blue. The shoe dropped on July 24th, 2020, for a retail price of 150 USD.
The Wavy Baby Blue Vision Racer is dominated by a vibrant blue finish covering the upper and midsole. The upper is constructed using leather overlays on a breathable mesh fabric that is made from 60% recycled polyester.
The New Balance N logo is colored a reflective steel grey, and written in pink on the Vision Racer’s translucent outsole is the word “Vision.”
The Wavy Baby Blue Vision colorway can be purchased from sneaker resale websites such as StockX, GOAT, Stadium Goods, and Flight Club, and the price ranges between 220 USD and 1,000 USD, depending on the buyer’s shoe size.
The Jaden Smith x New Balance Vision Racer Sunflower Yellow
The Sunflower Yellow Vision Racer colorway dropped on November 6th, 2020, for a retail price of 150 USD.
This colorway pays homage to Jaden Smith’s environmental conservation efforts and vegan-friendly nature by using a bright yellow upper and midsole straight from nature.
Completing the sunflower motif are black, white, and grey accents found in various spots throughout the shoe. Recycled polyester is utilized on the upper, with synthetic leather overlays and silver reflective detailing on the New Balance N logo. The exaggerated midsole is constructed with a 5% EVA regrind with the translucent rubber outsole displaying an oversized ‘Vision’ print in hot pink lettering.
The Sunflower Yellow New Balance Vision Racer colorway can be purchased from sneaker selling websites such as StockX, GOAT, Stadium Goods, and Flight Club. The price for the Sunflower Yellow colorway typically ranges between 230 USD and 500 USD, depending on the buyer’s shoe size.
The Jaden Smith x New Balance Vision Racer ReWorked
On Earth Day of 2021, the Boston-based shoe brand New Balance and Jaden Smith upped the sustainability of their Vision Racer silhouette by introducing the Vision Racer ReWorked or Natural colorway as it is sometimes referred to. The Vision Racer ReWorked retailed for 150 USD when it was first released.
The Vision Racer ReWorked is crafted using recycled materials, including a midsole that contains a 5% EVA regrind, which alleviates a potential waste stream. The material used in the upper and the tongue contains 74% Spinnex fiber, 16% polyester, and 10% Spandex. New Balance’s Spinnex material repurposes factory waste cut-offs into new usable material, including at least 30% textile waste.
The Vision Racer ReWorked was launched as a part of New Balance’s sustainability initiatives in which the athletic apparel brand is committed to helping create a healthier planet by reaching several sustainability milestones, such as using more recycled materials in their products, between now and 2030.
In a press release, New Balance Sr. Designer for Materials Innovation and Sustainability, Alex Carlson, said this about the updated Vision Race and its role in New Balance’s sustainability mission:
“In our commitment to contributing to a healthier planet, we’ve continued to think bigger in terms of unconventional innovation, and the Vision Racer ReWorked is a great example of that. We approached this launch with Jaden Smith, a leader in environmental activism, through the lens of reducing the waste long term and created a product that uniquely transforms recycled materials as a result while maintaining the style and trend-forwardness for which the Vision Racer is known.
The Vision Racer ReWorked features a colorway consisting of natural tones. The upper is given a heather grey finish with subtle white overlays. The chunky midsole is white, with both the upper and midsole covered in multicolored speckles, adding a slight flare to the design. The New Balance logos are black, and the outsole is an icy translucent and has the phrase, “Do You See It Yet?” written in pink lettering.
The New Balance Vision Racer ReWorked colorway can be purchased from shoe retailers Footlocker and Eastbay for 150 USD. The sneaker can also be bought on resale from StockX, GOAT, Stadium Goods, and Flight Club. The Vision Racer ReWorked colorway price typically ranges between 120 USD and 300 USD, depending on the buyer’s shoe size.
The Jaden Smith x New Balance Vision Racer Trippy Summer
At the end of July 2021, Jaden Smith and New Balance dropped two vibrant colorways as part of the Trippy Summer collection.
The Trippy Summer colorways draw from nature’s bright colors and are sneakers that symbolize Jaden Smith’s commitment to spread positivity and affect change for a happier and healthier world. The Trippy Summer pack expresses Jaden’s belief in the superpower that younger generations have to change the world through individuality.
The Trippy Summer collection draws on artwork from Jaden’s previous and upcoming album releases. He even released a track titled “Trippy Summer,” which inspired the shoe collection’s name.
Jaden incorporates his affinity for the 1960s and 70s hippie and psychedelic aesthetics in much of his music videos and album covers and his footwear and apparel designs. The Trippy Summer Vision Racer collection is no exception, featuring kaleidoscopic details inspired by the radiant colors found in nature, such as flowers, rainbows, and vivid sunsets.
The first colorway in the Trippy Summer pack, the Hippie White, is styled with a blend of white mesh and synthetic base layers and comes contrasted with a bold teal pop on the N logo borders. The segmented midsole has a unique color-fade effect that changes from cool blue to teal to red. The traditional New Balance logo on the heel gets a multicolored 1970s redesign written in a wavy font. The translucent outsole on the bottom has the phrase “Vision Racer” stamped in a rainbow gradient.
The second colorway in the Trippy Summer pack, the Hippie Cream, is styled in a white mesh upper composed of 100% recycled polyester complemented with dusty pink overlays. The shoe features a vibrant wraparound mudguard that incorporates a broad spectrum of colors that alternates between purple, orange, green, pink, and yellow. A tonal ‘N’ logo decorates the quarter panel, while New Balance is spelled out in multicolored 1970s-inspired wavy letters on the translucent heel overlay. The upper sits on an exaggerated cream-colored midsole built with EVA Regrind. The icy rubber outsole reveals colorful “Vision Racer” branding stamped in a rainbow gradient.
Accompanying the Trippy Summer sneakers, New Balance and Jaden Smith collaborated to produce Trippy Summer hoodies and t-shirts, making a complete Trippy Summer ensemble. The Trippy Summer hoodies and tees were the first time Jaden designed apparel for New Balance. The shoes retailed for 150 USD, while the hoodies and t-shirts retailed for 90 USD and 45 USD.
Both pairs of the Trippy Summer collection can be purchased through Footlocker and from sneaker resale websites such as StockX, GOAT, and Flight Club. The Trippy Summer Vision Racer collection typically sells between 100 USD and 250 USD per colorway, depending on the buyer’s shoe size.
This new take on the classic sneaker will be sure to take up space in the sneaker hall of fame with the nod to sustainable style.