Embrace the butterfly with Olympic gold medalist and world record hurdler and sprinter Sydney McLaughlin via the launch of her first apparel and footwear project, the New Balance Sydney Signature Collection.
The recently turned 22-year-old, fresh of setting a new world record in the 400-meter hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics, one of two gold medals she won in Japan, turns her attention from the track to the runway with her performance and fashion collection.
It all makes her a bit nervous. “I think I am now more (nervous) than I was,” she says. “At the end of the day, I am just excited to release something that I love, and feel is authentic to who I am. Everybody has their own opinion, but I’m excited to release something I can call my own.”
One of the most recognizable faces on the United States track and field team, McLaughlin has spent two years working with New Balance on the collection, with the 12-month delay in the Tokyo Olympics giving everyone more time to work on the project that includes everything from a warmup poncho and jumpsuit to a hooded shrug, crop bra, tees, tights, pants and two footwear options.
“The main theme and message from it is to be the first you,” McLaughlin says. “When I was meeting with other brands and other companies (before signing with New Balance), the message was cookie-cutter athletes fitting a model. I truly felt like with this, I could be authentically who I was and want to get that message across, whatever facet of life you are in, you could be the only you.”
McLaughlin didn’t start on the project immediately upon signing with the brand as a teenager in 2018, instead New Balance allowed her to focus on moving into professional running. About a year in, the collection concept came from New Balance and McLaughlin started partnering with them on every element of the project, including design inspiration, color schemes and collection pieces.
At the start, the idea of a butterfly was central. “Ever since I was young, my dad’s saying was be the butterfly,” she says. “It represents growth and evolving into something beautiful. This past year has been full of growth and evolving and truly this process of becoming who you are supposed to be.”
The butterfly theme merges with her new “simple, modern” logo and pairs with what the brand calls “chic iridescent color.” The “be the first you” motto also plays across product, a mix of performance and streetwear elements. McLaughlin says she wanted the first collection to be based on performance pieces that could be worn on the street and then have additional lifestyle-specific elements. “It is a really good mix and match situation,” she says.
But the two items she knew she had to have from the start: a dad hat and a fanny pack. “Those are two essentials I wouldn’t live without,” she says. “We have one of each.” The dad hat, though, is exclusively for friends and family and won’t be sold at retail. She also loves that the collection includes matching sets.
McLaughlin says her first experience working on a collection of apparel and footwear allowed her to get “very involved, for sure, in the whole process” and have fun putting it all together. “I wanted to make sure what I was putting out was obviously quality as well as fashion, so it would truly interest people, but be authentic to who I was,” she says. Working in design meetings alongside training as she prepared for her second Olympics was eased by the delay in the Olympics, allowing everyone more time to get the collection put together and let her use designing as a break from the track.
“From the first meeting to the final approval process, Syd has been so engaged in bringing this to life,” says Rachel Walder, New Balance apparel designer. “Her drive on the track easily transitioned to the design of this collection. We know this is just the beginning for Syd and we’re excited to play a part in her journey on and off the track.”
Along with the apparel pieces, the Sydney Signature Collection includes the lifestyle 327 and performance FuelCell Propel Remix v2 sneakers. Both have modern aesthetics, with the 327 one of the hottest models for the brand right now. “The design is very authentic to the collection itself in terms of colorways and schemes,” she says about the footwear models. “It is a good mixture of both streetwear and performance.”
McLaughlin hasn’t thought much past the release of the first collection, instead excited about the launch. “Regardless of how it goes,” she says, “I’ll take any feedback and look to what is next.”