How a vintage sports car inspired New Balance’s Casablanca XC-72 sneaker

New Balance footwear designer Charlotte Lee and Casablanca creative director Charaf Tajer break down the new shoe, inspired by the Lancia Stratos HF Zero.

Casablanca’s 2020 partnership with New Balance, which launched the 327 sneaker, helped establish both brands as ones to reckon with. Their collaborative shoe quickly became one of the most celebrated that year — and now that consumers have familiarized (or re-familiarized) themselves with the labels, they’re eager to get their hands on anything the two brands have to offer.

Now, New Balance and Casablanca are bringing forward another new model — the XC-72 sneaker — which takes inspiration from the luxurious cars often seen decorating Monaco’s winding roads. Dubbed a “sports car for your feet,” the co-branded XC-72 evokes a feeling of wonder with details taken from vintage archives and modern design.

Remixing icons

New Balance

Casablanca in itself is contemporary, “respecting the past and future,” Charaf Tajer, Casablanca’s creative director, told Input. “It’s the mix that makes the perfect recipe,” he said, applying the same logic to the fashion label’s partnership with New Balance. The collaboration “isn’t just two names together,” Tajer notes, but “two experts bringing something new to the market,” particularly “a certain elegance in sportswear.”

The XC-72 sports a unique split-sole unit, boasting three separate outsole tread patterns inspired by heritage New Balance models.

Accordingly, the XC-72 sports a unique split-sole unit, boasting three separate outsole tread patterns inspired by heritage New Balance models. Charlotte Lee, New Balance’s footwear designer and Tajer’s fellow “expert,” wanted the sneaker to feel grounded in New Balance’s designs, but at the same time, unlike anything the brand had put out before.

New Balance
New Balance
New Balance
New Balance

“[The XC-72] is the only time I've ever seen a three outsole design on a shoe get to production,” Lee told Input, describing the sneaker as one of her toughest projects yet. “I was expecting more of a fight [when it was presented].” Yet to her surprise (and delight), the design for the XC-72 was embraced by both New Balance and Casablanca. Recounting the moment she presented the fashion label with the XC-72, Lee said, “[Casablanca] came to [New Balance] going, ‘that’s exactly what our collection is.’” It’s as if the two brands had “arrived at the same conclusion,’ she remarked.

“I wanted the sneaker to be more aggressive than the 327.”

With influence from ‘70s and ‘80s cars, Lee incorporated racing stripes, sharp edges, and tire-like details into the XC-72. “I wanted the sneaker to be more aggressive than the 327,” she noted, as she sought to emulate the speed and power of vintage sports cars. The Lancia Stratos HF Zero, debuted at the Turin motor show in 1970, was one of the main inspirations behind the XC-72.

The Lancia Stratos HF ZeroRM Auctions

Expect the unexpected

Tajer himself loves the density of the shoe, which embodies the “intellectuality” of the New Balance brand, he said. Yet he’s nervous about the release of the XC-72, humbly noting that just because he likes the sneaker doesn’t mean everyone will. “It’s not about the numbers,” he said, it’s about how people react to the shoe. For Tajer, the “highest validation comes from people wearing [his work] in the streets,” understanding his message. With the XC-72, he wants people to explore the unexpected — just as he and Lee have.

Arriving in two color schemes — Casablanca’s signature orange and green and a new red and yellow mix — it’s easy to see the XC-72 as a “sports car for your feet.” And at $150, the sneaker is certainly more attainable than the average Ferrari or Lamborghini. The suave style is available now on Casablanca’s website, while a global release happens August 28 on New Balance’s site.

As for what’s next for New Balance and Casablanca, Tajer can’t say. “If I told you, you would expect it,” he said. “It’s all about the unexpected.”

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