Louis Vuitton will showcase a piece of Virgil Abloh’s legacy in an exhibit dedicated to the late male creative director’s long-awaited collaborative project with Nike.
The luxury fashion house will launch nine editions of Abloh’s coveted Louis Vuitton x Nike “Air Force 1” next month and is currently accepting pre-orders ahead of the shoe’s release. Ahead of the launch, Vuitton is hosting an exhibition from May 20-31 at New York’s Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse dedicated to the partnership, with recurring Abloh themes and touches serving as the backdrop for the 47 bespoke editions on display. The May 20 opening night will feature a performance by 21 Savage and a DJ set by Jamie xx.
The nine editions selected by Louis Vuitton for in-store release, featuring all-white, two-tone, black suede, metallic gold and multi-color mid-rise and low-rise silhouettes, were made in Venice, Italy, at Fiesso d’Artico. with the leather, the materials and the insignia of the house. The editions will be sold for 2,000 euros and 2,500 euros in sizes 3.5 to 18.
The editions made their debut last June during the spring 2022 men’s show in Paris. The collection is rooted around “Amen Break,” a drum break in the 1969 Winstons song that is said to be one of the most recognized samples of hip-hop and jungle music. Abloh compared the now-ubiquitous drum break to the Air Force 1 sneaker, a style first introduced in 1982 amidst New York’s burgeoning hip-hop and breakdancing culture. The sneaker had been immortalized on DJ EZ Rock’s 1988 album “It Takes Two,” where he wore the style with the Swoosh adorned with a modified Louis Vuitton monogram by Harlem haberdasher Dapper Dan, one of the first to bridge the gap between luxury fashion and sportswear.
“The Air Force 1 is a sample like the ‘Amen Break,'” Abloh said in a quote provided by Louis Vuitton. “A T-shirt is an ‘Amen Break’, a suit is an ‘Amen Break’. We all iterate on the same ideas. But, in my canon, Air Force 1 puts the edge to the blade. This item is happened long before me, but to get to a context where it’s adjacent to the t-shirt and suit, its logic took 40 years to craft.
Two hundred exclusive pairs were auctioned at Sotheby’s in February to benefit the Virgil Abloh “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund and raised $25.3 million, far eclipsing the $3 million estimate for the lot.
“The total number of offers and individual offers set a world record and, most importantly, they had never had so many countries,” said Michael Burke, president and CEO of Louis Vuitton.
“What individual can create a charity that can create this kind of prize all over the world?” Burke asked. “Which individual today can create a global sense of unity? Is there an elected official who can generate that kind of interest and commitment? This is the first time that they have had such an interest in this.
The collaboration speaks volumes about Abloh’s legacy. It’s the culmination of a proposition that dates back several years before Louis Vuitton x Nike could be considered a reality beyond sneaker customizers.
For many years, Abloh has shown pop culture that it’s possible to connect seemingly unrelated worlds. What does luxury fashion have to do with sportswear? Athlete and entrepreneur David Beckham may have proven that luxury fashion and athletes can co-exist, but Abloh has offered to mix subcultures and genres throughout his career.
RSVP Gallery, the Chicago store he opened with streetwear designer Don C, offered luxury and contemporary fashion and art with streetwear brands. Abloh was trained as an architect, but had deep ties to the music, skate and streetwear scenes. He also brought his love of skateboarding to Louis Vuitton, introducing the house’s first skate shoe and signing the brand’s first skater, Lucien Clarke.
“A lot of people expected that from Virgil’s first show,” Burke said of the Louis Vuitton x Nike collaboration. “I remember some people were disappointed that there wasn’t a big action put on the sneakers for his first show. Virgil had always said he didn’t want to rush. He didn’t want to flatter the customers who were expecting it. He wanted to start with fashion and ready-to-wear, drapes, cuts, fabrics, and wanted to learn more about leather.
Abloh and Nike had been in partnership since 2016, led by “The Ten” design project, where Abloh put his signature design touches on Nike Air Max 90 and 97, Air Force 1 Low, Blazer Mid, Air Presto, Air VaporMax , React, Hyperdunk 2017, Air Jordan 1 and Converse Chuck Taylor. The designer has also reworked the Nike Air Zoom Fly Mercurial Fly Knit, Air Jordan 2, 4, and 5 sneakers, all of which have been chronicled and immortalized in books like “Icons” released in 2020.
In 2018, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton appointed Abloh as men’s artistic director of Vuitton, succeeding Kim Jones who orchestrated a collaboration collection between Louis Vuitton and Supreme. This project opened the door for more collaborations to come, and with Abloh coming to Vuitton with several Nike projects under his belt, it was only a matter of time.
“We knew we were going to do it,” Burke reiterated. “He has a very special relationship with Nike. We knew we were going to do it and the timing was his. When you have Virgil and his history with Nike, it’s obvious that it will be the bond of two icons. It’s the godfather and that’s what’s interesting.
The project was also a nod to the past. “For the Nike x Louis Vuitton Air Force One project, Virgil wanted to reference the custom versions that appeared in the late 80s and early 90s, which often incorporated repurposed Louis Vuitton fabrics and applied them to Swooshes and uppers. footwear,” said Fraser Cooke, Nike Special Projects Manager.
“The idea of sampling ran through Virgil’s work, so to take the AF1 and officially creating it with LV – finally making this clash of icons legitimate – was a unique, personal and culturally inspiring initiative,” he added. “You only have to look at the show in which he debuted the Nike x Louis Vuitton Air Force One to see what an expansive homage it was to sampling and hip-hop cultural iconography. .”
But again, Abloh introducing them to his collection was only a matter of time. “He really expected to create eternity through the sneaker,” Burke said. “Eternity is something we seek and designers take advantage of it because they might reach for it. ‘Icon’ is an overused word, but it’s something that lasts longer than us and compared to our short lives, it “It’s an eternity. You can’t force this. It has to happen when everything lines up and it’s not a formula you can replicate. We’ve talked about it many times. It should happen when we’re ready, when Nike is ready and when people are ready for it.”
Burke explained that Abloh and the house have produced 47 custom-made sneakers for select people, who will be the ones on display in New York.
The expansive showcase will be open to the public; the 47 editions will be exhibited in a dreamlike space reminiscent of the men’s Vuitton shows under the direction of Abloh. The venue will be swathed in bright orange adorned with a logo that merges the Louis Vuitton and Nike logos, and when guests enter the exhibit, they will see walls painted with clouds, reminiscent of some of the shows from Abloh, a giant version of the logo reflected in a mirrored ceiling and will be surrounded by the iconic 3D printed Abloh statues.
The upper room is a treehouse created in homage to Abloh’s affinity for the childlike spirit and furnished like the Louis Vuitton studio and workshop he created on rue du Pont-Neuf in Paris. Editions are exhibited in motion on magnetized walls in holographic displays that listen to breakdance.
Additionally, large glass boxes will be placed around New York City at Domino Park, Grand Central Terminal, South Street Seaport, Astor Place, Columbus Circle, Flatiron Plaza and Gansevoort Plaza displaying graphic globe sculptures related to the storefront themes.
“To me, it’s a little nod to Virgil,” Burke said. “That sums up ‘Virgil was there.’ He was everywhere at once and I hope we can recreate that. It represents Virgil more than anything I said. His mere presence changed lives.
Burke explained that the exhibit is an amalgamation of all of Abloh’s shows, from spring 2019 through his eighth collection presented in January 2022. “He was very adamant that one show wouldn’t make the last show irrelevant,” he explained.
The fall 2022 men’s show was also a dreamlike setting, as was the exhibit, and shares a blue hue with the fall 2020 “Truman Show” which also had cloud patterns also seen in the show. ‘exposure. Additionally, the 3D-printed statues have appeared in several Louis Vuitton men’s pop-up stores in cities including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Seoul, among others. The statues appeared in bright, monochromatic colors like green for the Lower East Side temporary store, neon orange in Chicago, and gradient patterns.
A rainbow gradient statue of Abloh was made for the Miami show in December 2021.
“He didn’t want the creative ideas to be overwhelmed by what comes next,” Burke said. “He announced the future that referenced the latest collection and that’s what you’ll see in the sneakers. It’s a tribute to Virgil and it wasn’t planned like that, just like the Miami show did. “Wasn’t planned. In a way, what we’re doing with the sneaker exhibit mimics what we’ve done with the ready-to-wear as he passed. He would have loved to see it himself.”
Burke used the words “icon” and “eternity” to explain Louis Vuitton x Nike sneakers and Abloh’s collections for the luxury house. While the launch and exhibit showcases Abloh’s legacy as a home designer and in his many collaborative projects, Burke doesn’t see this as the end.
“At the end of each show, he left many doors half-open,” Burke added. “He left possibilities for the future show, which is why the January show felt like he was there every second from the perspective, the smoke, the dancers and the orchestra. anyone could take their job and work on it.
Burke revealed there was room for more bespoke sneakers after these 47 editions – “There is no finality”, he said – and the house is developing a book that chronicles the mandate from Abloh home.
“The publisher said this was the book and there should be an ending and I said, ‘I wish you didn’t show a bookend,'” he said. “‘You have to show it in a way where eight brings you back to one, a continuation of something that happened before, and I think Virgil would want that. He knew his medical situation and wanted the finality. In four short years the arc he drew was absolutely amazing, the first collection was from someone just starting out and by the eighth he had become a master.
He concluded: “Physicists tried to find a very unifying force and Virgil actually had it. They were looking in the wrong places.