Thursday, 29 May 2008

Soul City 576

On the July cover of The Face in 1998 Ad Rock is pictured wearing some jeans with roll ups, a T shirt and some New Balance sneakers. I thought he looked so cool and pretty much went out and bought a pair of New Balance just because of that picture. That pair of shoes (RIP) lasted me years but it wasn’t until I saw Hanon’s Soul City 576 that the NB bug bit. Whilst the Hanon 576 colour way is my favourite, I prefer the 860 as a model. If the Soul City had been an 860, wow....

The following interview appeared in Issue 9 of Sneaker Freaker Magazine. My questions are posed to Brian Toft of Hanon Shop.

1. Who came up with the concept of basing the sneakers around the theme of the Northern Soul music scene? Sneaker culture is so entrenched in hip hop culture I found the concept a breath of fresh air.

1. Brian Toft here at hanon came up with the initial idea. The entire concept was inspired by the Northern Soul scene in England during the 60's and 70's and the rare 45' vinyl records , cover art and collectable patches were all contributing factors . Although the Soul Boys back then did not necessarily sport NB we felt the energy and excitement they invested in their culture mirrored that of the sneaker / trainer collector today. The project in a way was also a nod to the influence the North West of England has had in general to trainer culture over the years.

2. Talk me through the colours/design on the Soul City 576, and its inspiration. Was it based on the colours used on the records of the 60s UK record label of the same name?

2. The colourway on the Soul City was taken from an original 45rpm record of the same title released in the 60's. Each model in the series is inspired by or makes a direct colour reference to Northern Soul. The Soul city is a particular favourite of ours and we pretty much knew the colourway was right and would need minimal tweaking from the 1st sample. This model we felt captured the feeling of early Northern Soul. I guess one eye would have been on the hip hop inspired products you mentioned and and we probably were trying to combat the sea of camo and patent released styles out there.

3. The accompanying badges and postcards were nice bonuses. Who designed them?

3. The badges were designed by Edward Toft and each is based on a iconic Northern Soul record or patch. It had to be badges or patches and we hope the old soul boys would instantly recognise all four.

4. Brian Sweeney's photographs were tied in with the Sole City Series. How did you get him involved with the project?

4. I met Brian Sweeney through a journalist friend Greg Gordon who felt he would be perfect for the project. Brian is a much sought after snapper and his work regularly features within the music industry. He has captured stars such as Eminem, Oasis, Happy Mondays and The Chemical Brothers to name a few. His earlier work however centred much on the working class areas of Northern England. Touring with bands in the early 90's he captured the 70's architecture, run down football terraces and grounds of the towns they visited. These images were of the very areas where Northern Soul was born, and it was those reference points that captured the true feeling of the scene.

We approached Brian and he was very enthusiastic to the project. We worked closely together going through this period in his archives and selected the 4 images that would go on to be part of the limited edition canvases and postcards.

5. Hanon has put out several exclusive colourways with NB now. NB seems to be going from strength to strength of late with their fashion led models. What is it that attracts you and the Hanon crew to their shoes?

5. Having worn NB 576's since my youth I have always had a natural respect and affinity to their shoes. To me the hand built process of manufacture makes them to running shoes what Saville Row is to suits. They fact they are manufactured in England is also a bonus as when it comes to design, the opportunity to work closely with the factory makes a massive difference of what can be achieved. My next project with them - a M990 release reflects this flexibility as we are now working directly with Schoeller Technologies to develop a new upper.

Foot note: One reader was not amused that Ad Rock was wearing New Balance and wrote to the editior of The Face in a subsequent issue, unhappy with the stylist’s choice saying that NB wasn’t the Boys style! He was also wearing a nice orange Very Ape T a lot around this time.