In my second day of training, I found out that my new company has a very liberal policy when it comes to blogging. I’m free to tell who I work for and even express my thoughts on the latest issues, as long as I add a disclaimer that my thoughts do not reflect the views of the company, and as long as I don’t include an actual link to the company website. Cool! However, my personal feeling is that I’m not comfortable discussing work in my blog (beyond a few non-identifying stories). If you can figure out who I work for based on my anecdotes, good for you, but I’m not going to confirm or deny anything 🙂
So with that said, today’s post is not going to be anything about airlines; instead, I’ll reflect back on a really cool experience I had last Wednesday. Amy and Tom from Runners’ Lounge were invited to New York to get a sneak preview of the New Balance 2009 fall line – how cool! Unfortunately, they weren’t able to travel out here for it, so instead, they asked myself, Bailey of Irish Cream, and Peter of Runners Write to attend in their place.
I was totally psyched about the opportunity – this marks one of the first times that a “non-professional” (meaning not a buyer like Dick’s Sporting Goods or a publication like Runner’s World) has gotten to attend one of these sneak previews! I felt like a pioneer, and while I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, I eagerly accepted. Getting to see all the latest stuff before everyone else would be a huge boost to my ego! But more importantly, I could tell all of you what to look for in your equipment.
We divided up the line between the three of us – my coverage focuses on women’s apparel, Bailey covered women’s shoes, and Peter covered all the men’s stuff (shoes and apparel). Before really discussing the line, I should point out that I’ve always been more of a cheap running clothes kind of girl. Most of my running clothes are either old race t-shirts, or things I picked off the clearance rack at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. I have a few Nike tank tops that I discovered fit perfectly with no chafing, so I stocked up on the style, but even those I managed to find online at a good price. Unfortunately, the majority of the stuff on clearance is not the super high tech awesome stuff, so the New Balance line really made me in awe of what technology can do for runners.
When we arrived for the showing (yay for me being unemployed at the time and able to head to midtown in the middle of the afternoon!), I wasn’t sure quite how it would work. We headed up to an office suite, where we found a sort of mini showroom. There was a conference table, at which four or five reps sat, and the walls were lined with tons of New Balance shoes from many different years. After some brief introductions, the NB reps started asking about Runners’ LOunge: what it is, how many users there are, the types of activities and discussions that go on, etc. I was really psyched to answer the questions and “pitch” the Lounge, and I felt really confident in how I answered. It just really reinforced my belief that I’d ultimately like to end up in some of type of marketing or brand management job! Who knows… after all, the marketing department of my firm sits right next to revenue management 🙂
Anyway, the reps explained that they had models coming in to show us the clothing – cool! I will add the disclaimer that the models were all in pretty ridiculous shape, so while it was slightly better than seeing the clothes on the rack, it was hard to really tell how well a shirt might pull in and cover up my tummy! There really isn’t a substitute for that other than trying the clothing on yourself though, and I still was impressed that there were all these models basically giving a fashion show for the three of us.
The NB fall line focuses on both fit and value – both very important to me. A system called Total Fit is used in the shoes to provide 88 dimensions of measurement that ensure a perfect fit. On the apparel side, the pieces are designed to be low rise, semi-fitted, and available in short, long, and medium lengths. The idea is that you can get something off the rack that will still be customized to your own body.
With regards to value, the pieces are designed to be used in multiple sports (not just running, but skiing, tennis, climbing, etc) and even as everyday wear. In fact, the NB rep said that the Emissive long sleeve layer could also be used for a casual Friday at the office! While I can’t imagine ever wearing my running clothes to work (I don’t care what kind of anti-odor material they have; I would still feel self-conscious and spend the whole day wondering if I smelled), I had to admit it was a pretty stylish shirt that didn’t look like your traditional hardcore athletic apparel. On those weekend mornings when I treat myself to brunch right after a run, this would be the perfect thing to wear so I didn’t feel self-conscious in my running clothes while at the restaurant.
The Emissive long sleeve layer shirt is made of the hottest material to hit the running apparel market, which is making its NB debut in the fall line: Xstatic. Xstatic is the generic name for a material that is 99.9% natural silver fiber. It’s 50% post-consumer (meaning recycled), and gives four performance benefits: it’s anti-static, anti-odor, antimicrobial, and thermodynamic. Fearing harshness and rigidity when they talked about how it was made of silver, I touched the material and found that it was very soft and stretchy, kind of like a combination of modal and lycra. When asked about the safety factor of wearing metal against your skin, the reps assured me that it was very safe, only releasing about the same amount of ions as when you wash your silverware in the dishwasher. Xstatic is currently being used by astronauts, gymnasts, Adidas, and Brooks, but fall 2009 marks the first time that NB is including it in their line.
All in all, we got to preview twelve different complete outfits in the fall line. To generalize a bit, the line featured a lot of zipper pockets that were hidden in the stitching, giving a very aesthetically-appealing slim look to the garments. However, I noted that once you start putting stuff in the pockets, the hidden part doesn’t really matter – with or without a zipper, the bulge in the material from whatever you put in the pockets is going to be apparent! When I run marathons, I typically wear a fuel belt, so pockets aren’t really a factor, but these pockets would be great for shorter runs when I want to carry a MetroCard or a few dollars. One other cool thing about the pockets is that almost every item has a hidden pocket with an “in case of emergency” tag attached inside: you write your name, address, and emergency phone numbers on it, and it can basically replace a Road ID for anyone who doesn’t want to wear one on their wrist, shoe, or neck. Convenient and safe!
My favorite item in the line was an updated version of the popular Bermuda run skirt. To go back to the pockets, the updates include the addition of a ball pocket for tennis players and a small pocket on the back for an iPod. The skirt also includes what’s called a “phantom waistband”: fabric is rolled over the elastic to be against your skin, so you don’t get that painful chafing from the unprotected elastic against your chin. Personally, I hate those icky lines that seem to last for a while after changing out of my running clothes, so I liked this idea. The skirt was really cute, especially paired with the Adapter shortsleeve tee. While I normally wouldn’t buy a t-shirt for running (I have plenty of tees from races), this was very fitted, seeming almost more like a tank but with long sleeves. The lines on the Adapter as well as a lot of the other tops were vertical, but curved to sculpt the body and lend a feminine look; it’s also colorblocked to further add to the stylish and flattering look. The big bonus with this shirt is that it also has a lot of ruching, which I know from experience is super for hiding a bit of extra weight. I’m all for any clothes that make me look thinner without having to run! 🙂
One other shirt I’d like to mention is the women’s Cocona sleeveless. Cocona is another technical material – it’s been around for a while, but ignorant me didn’t know much about it. When I asked the NB reps, they told us a really interesting story of how it’s made. Basically, coconuts are burned to get a fiber that’s naturally more UV protectant and faster drying than other materials. Shirts made of coconuts, shirts made of silver… what will they think of next? While the material on this was really cool, I was disappointed to find out that it did not have a built-in bra (unlike most of the other tanks in the line). The rep explained, “it’s For women who want their own support and will wear their own sports bra.” She later described the tanks that had a built-in shelf bra as being good for a light jog. To me, that was just the opposite of how I use my shirts. I’m definitely someone who needs a bit of extra support, so perhaps you less endowed women will see things a bit differently, but I wear my non-bra shirts with a sports bra under them when I’m going for a very short run; when I go on a long run or run a marathon, I make sure to wear a tank with a built-in bra, and then double up with a regular sports bra in order to get maximum support and minimal bouncing/chafing. I’d be curious – what are your thoughts on this? Please do share in the comments.
Overall, I think I’ll definitely be hitting the NB stores when these clothes come out in July/August. Maybe it was just the gorgeous fitness models who were demoing them, but the styles are really hot, and the technology seems innovative enough to make me consider paying full price. Boyfriend’s favorite scent is coconut – maybe I could throw it on, spray a bit of Bath and Body Works coconut scent, and get him to love me even more!