At Saucony in 2021, what’s old is new again.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of its iconic Jazz running shoe, the Massachusetts-based company has unveiled a limited-time, limited-inventory footwear collection that blends the old-school aesthetics of the inaugural Jazz with five current performance running shoe models.
Launching February 1, the Saucony Icon Pack brings the classic navy-and-silver color palette, retro typography and vintage logos of the original Jazz sneaker to the three-shoe Endorphin line-up – the carbon-plated Endorphin Pro, the award-winning Endorphin Speed and the plush Endorphin Shift – as well as the ever-popular Kinvara 12 and Peregrine 11 trail running shoe.
“We only had one opportunity to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Jazz and this was a birthday party we wanted to invite a few friends to,” Saucony VP-global product Shawn Hoy tells Running Insight.
Merging old and new
After Saucony’s Originals team presented plans for a more updated version of the Jazz sneaker in late 2019, internal discussions blossomed around marrying the Jazz’s memorable look with the brand’s performance running footwear, especially after the Endorphin Collection’s spirited debut at The Running Event in December 2019.
“The thinking was, ‘Let’s break some rules, invite the performance folks to the party and see what we come up with,’” Hoy says. “The worst-case scenario? We experiment and get feedback. Best case? We learn things we can apply moving forward.”
Toggling between two distinct worlds – Originals and Performance – and balancing an honest reverence for history with the credibility of Saucony’s latest performance footwear, company leaders asked thoughtful questions about pulling the past into modern franchises. Would it confuse people? Would it resonate? Was it hokey?
“We ended up confident that we know great looking product when we see it,” Hoy says.
Saucony head of design Chris Mahoney sketched up the Kinvara first, imagining a retro navy-and-silver hued upper punctuated by a more vertical version of Saucony’s running river logo. A clear winner, Mahoney then created mockups of the three Endorphin models and the Peregrine.
“When we put the entire assortment together, it was a collective, ‘Yes!’” Hoy says.
Thereafter, Saucony hustled to get the shoes “buy ready,” navigating a tight timeline and the upheaval of a global pandemic to meet an early 2021 release target.
“We had one shot to make sure the shoes looked good,” Hoy says.
An energizing project
Upon introducing the Icon collection to run retailers and sneaker boutiques in late 2020, including during Running Insight’s Footwear Week in early December, Saucony saw an enthusiastic response and immediate orders.
“We’ve reached a good number of accounts with good buys within those accounts,” Hoy says.
Sparked by the Icon Collection’s nostalgic vibe and Endorphin Collection sales figures in its 18 New England area stores, Boston-based Marathon Sports will soon welcome the Icon Endorphin Pro and Endorphin Speed into its doors.
“This footwear speaks to the first running boom that run specialty was carved out from and it’s a creative way to add fun into the channel,” Marathon Sports footwear buyer Michael Dobbs says, confident that the retro look sitting atop the Endorphin Pro and Speed’s performance-oriented package will resonate with Marathon Sports’ customers. “We’ll have to get out and tell this story, but I definitely think this collection has strong legs.”
While Hoy acknowledges that blending an “originals look” with the brand’s high-tech modern performance running footwear stands a risk, he downplays the peril. This is but a single colorway to five different models for a small moment in time, he reminds.
And besides, Hoy and his Saucony teammates embrace risk.
“As a challenger brand, we need to be opportunistic and nimble and we couldn’t let the 40th birthday of the Jazz pass without celebrating it in a big way,” he says. “Product is at its best when it creates an emotive connection with the people who buy it and we felt there was a great origin story to be told here. It just so happens we have five beautiful canvases to tell the story.”
Yet more, the bold effort of applying a retro aesthetic to the latest footwear technology has emboldened the Saucony team to investigate other ways it can share stories, celebrate its rich heritage and approach business opportunities, including apparel.
“The process of creating the Icon Pack helped us see that we have more space to play as a brand than we realized and we’re excited about where that will lead,” Hoy says.