Fast Company is reporting that New Balance will be experimenting with some quasi-invasive and more than a little creepy video recognition technology during NYFW in an attempt to find people rocking intentionally off-trend trend fits.
“On September 6, the first day of New York Fashion Week, the sportswear giant will set up a booth in Soho with cameras facing out in every direction,” the story said, “scanning the hoards of people walking the streets of the city… to identify people who don’t look like everybody else.”
Over the past year, the story noted, New Balance has been trying rebrand itself “as the rebel of the sportswear industry” — nothing says “rebel” like a fresh pair of 990s but ok — and the cameras are there, apparently, to identify other like-minded “rebels.”
But this is where things get weird. “When the cameras identify someone who looks very different from the norm,” Fast Company reported, “a New Balance representative will pop out of the booth, explain to that person exactly what is going on, and hand them a pair of New Balance Fresh Foam Cruz Nubuck shoes,” turning the entire operation into some jarring AI-triggered jack-in-the-box with sneakers that no one asked for.
Besides being “a major reversal of the industry norm,” the strategy is also dripping with irony, as the story notes: not only is it trying to commercialize genuine DGAF individuality, it’s “effectively [trying to turn] an anti-trend into a trend” by activating people that sit at the center of a Goes-to-Fashion-Week / Doesn’t-Care-About-Trends venn diagram.
Whatever works, I guess.
You can read more about it at Fast Company.