Coco Gauff New Balance CG1 Sneaker Design, collaborations and US Open

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No one expected a closed sports bar to be the setting for the production of 18-year-old tennis star Coco Gauff’s first signature sneaker. But in 2020, as the coronavirus quarantine has upended traditional workspaces, expectations have become increasingly scarce.

New Balance, the partner of the sneaker brand Gauff has worked with since she was 14, has taken over Paradise Sports Lounge, a bar owned by her father in Delray Beach, Florida, using it as a design space impromptu for a day when it was closed. . It was a necessity – virtual gatherings lack the openness needed to make a good product. Behind the lounge’s tinted windows, brand employees brainstormed ideas with Gauff in an early effort to distill his personality into a sneaker.

“They literally built boards that I was able to print and pin,” says Evan Zedar, global tennis sports marketing manager at New Balance. “And it was: Who are you? What is your vision? And we had her mom, her, her aunt, her best friend, we put some music on.

The first colorway of the New Balance Coco CG1. Image via New Balance

The lengthy session would be followed by several rounds of feedback and proper sneaker design with more traditional tools at New Balance headquarters outside Boston, but Gauff cites this vision meeting as the genesis of his signature shoe.

“We spent about five hours creating mood boards and talking with various designers from the New Balance team about what I liked, didn’t like, what I hoped for in the design” , explains Gauff, who is currently ranked No. 1. 12 in the world in singles and no. 1 in the world in doubles, “and the performance of the shoe and various other things to make sure that they had a great starting point to be able to start designing the shoe.”

That shoe, the Coco CG1, makes its commercial debut two years later, arriving Friday in a $170 neon-accented launch colorway. She will wear her sneakers to a Grand Slam tournament for the first time next week, lacing up a pair at the US Open.

The model is dressed in personal Gauff touches, from her name scrawled on her tongue to a mantra from her father (“You can change the world with a racket”) inscribed on the tip of her foot. It’s an unconventional tennis sneaker, cut higher than average with a silhouette that resembles something you’re more likely to see on a basketball court.

“I was inspired by basketball shoes and a mid-cut isn’t really done in tennis, so I wanted it to be unique that way,” Gauff says. “I also wanted the shoe to feel like something you could wear on or off the court and I really like the street-style feel of a mid-top cut.”

Coco Gauff wearing her New Balance Coco CG1 sneaker
Coco Gauff started wearing her signature shoe right after Wimbledon this year. Image via New Balance

Like Gauff, New Balance is keen on making the shoe viable for performance and lifestyle. It feels like there are likely to be collaboration pairs to come, though the New Balance team that worked on his shoe doesn’t offer any information on that, other than a smile and some visible restraint.

The Coco CG1 colors, a couple of bold and bright combos so far, are part of that effort. The shoe is thus reminiscent of the flashy 90s models of Nike’s Air Tech Challenge line of tennis shoes that Andre Agassi played in.

The 90s and its pastel hues were an important design reference point for Gauff, although she was born in 2004. The group that worked on her shoe credits her cultural awareness of a decade leading up to her passage on this planet to his old soul. . This can be seen in her interviews, where she displays a poise beyond her age. It also shows in the culture she consumes, according to New Balance designer Cordell Jordan.

“I’m a 90s baby and she knew almost more about the 90s than I did,” Jordan says. “She had certain musical inspirations – Aaliyah, TLC – certain graphics. Even one thing she talked about was how the shoe should be paneled.

Instead of hot melts and seamless sections, the Coco CG1’s panels are held together with more traditional stitching, as was more common in shoemaking decades ago. The launch colorway’s neon lights also serve as a link to the sizzling colors of its home country.

“I love bright colors and in the 90s fashion was so much fun,” says Gauff. “Being also from Florida, it was a little nod to the miami viceArt deco, Miami Beach sunset vibe.”

The New Balance Coco CG1 sneaker by Coco Gauff indicates
A mantra from Gauff’s father appears at the end of his signature model. Image via New Balance

The second colorway of the sneaker, also released on Friday, is the one Gauff will be wearing next week in Queens. There, at the US Open, the model will make her debut on the court at the highest level of professional play.

His sneaker was actually ready in time for Wimbledon earlier this summer, and originally slated as a March launch before then, but New Balance didn’t want Gauff rushing to play in the Coco CG1 by changing his shoes for that tournament at the last minute. Just after Wimbledon (where she advanced in singles to the third round before losing to Amanda Anisimova), she made the switch, donning her shoes for exhibitions and matches leading up to the final Grand Slam.

His US Open-designed CG1 “DigiCoco” is darker than the first colorway, with a rich red and blue upper that features a yellow outsole. This version of the sneaker is inspired by video games in reference to how Gauff’s talents are “almost video game-like”, according to New Balance. Its colors are arranged with attention to the tones of the courts on which it will play.

“You don’t want to have too much blue in the shoe itself, at least hitting the ground,” says Jordan. “For some colors you want to add more pop, more pizzazz, to give it a higher contrast.”

More important than the colors used are the actual technical aspects of the Coco CG1. New Balance claims the sneaker uses the best materials the brand has available for performance footwear, which in this case means FuelCell cushioning and a Fit Weave Lite upper. Its sole uses Energy Arc, New Balance’s version of the foam-embedded carbon plate system that’s been popular in shoes for years now.

The 'DigiCoco' New Balance Coco CG1 sneakers that Coco Gauff will wear at the US Open.  The shoe is blue and read with yellow accents.
Gauff will wear the ‘DigiCoco’ colorway for the US Open. Image via New Balance

“It’s always been used for running, but obviously switching to tennis is a bit of a different challenge,” says Josh Wilder, tennis footwear product manager at New Balance who worked on Gauff’s shoe. “Running is very simple, whether on a track or over a long distance. When you play tennis, you make side cuts all around the court.

The carbon plate is designed to propel the wearer forward. Wilder says it made Gauff feel better equipped to hit overhand and jump with a real bouncy feel. Carbon fiber is embedded in soft foam, then wrapped in rubber and harder foam to add the kind of lateral stability needed for an athlete who moves so horizontally.

The length of the plate changed during the development of the shoe – at first New Balance gave Gauff a sneaker with a full-length plate. They shortened it to reduce stiffness, but the technology inside the Coco CG1 didn’t change drastically during design otherwise. The stem hasn’t moved much. For Gauff, the main goal was to cut precious ounces from her signature figure.

A sketch of Coco Gauff's New Balance Coco CG1 sneaker
A design sketch of the New Balance Coco CG1. Image via New Balance

“One of the biggest things that changed in those two years was the weight of the shoe,” she says. “When it comes to performance on the court, you want a lightweight shoe, and the New Balance team was able to use different materials and a carbon fiber plate to make it as light as possible while still making it ideal for wearing. and optimize my performance.

The brand tweaked the sneaker through fall 2021 before settling on its design. Now that it’s been released to the world, it’s a somewhat nerve-wracking time for the designers, who are finally seeing it live in the product after all their hard work.

And now that Gauff is wearing it in real-world competition, New Balance is already asking for his feedback. In all likelihood, Gauff’s first signature sneaker with New Balance won’t be his last.

“With the footwear industry experiencing such long lead times, we are even asking questions already about what they would like to improve or what they want to change,” says Wilder. “We’re going to give it a bit of a buffer, a few months I would say, but then, of course, you already start looking ahead and saying to yourself, ‘What’s next?'”


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