EXCLUSIVE: Louis Vuitton and Nike ‘Air Force 1’ by Virgil Abloh Sneaker to Launch With Auction

PARIS Louis Vuitton will launch its eagerly awaited “Air Force 1” sneakers, designed in collaboration with Nike, with an auction to benefit late designer Virgil Abloh’s scholarship fund for Black fashion students, marking the first of a string of related initiatives scheduled to take place this year.

Abloh, who died of cancer in November at the age of 41, unveiled the shoes last June as part of his spring 2022 line for the French luxury house.

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Vuitton plans to present his fall 2022 collection, which Louis Vuitton chairman and chief executive officer Michael Burke said was 95 percent completed at the time of the designer’s passing, in two shows on Thursday as part of Paris Fashion Week for the men’s wear collections.

Two hundred pairs of the limited-edition Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” by Virgil Abloh sneakers will go on sale through, with proceeds going to the Virgil Abloh “Post Modern” Scholarship Fund, which he launched in 2020 with an initial endowment of $1 million, Louis Vuitton, Nike and Sotheby’s said on Wednesday in a joint statement provided exclusively to WWD.

The sneakers in the online auction, set to run from Jan. 26 to Feb. 8, will be made available in an exclusive colorway and a range of sizes, from 5 to 18, with bids starting at $2,000. The shoes are made of calf leather, featuring Vuitton’s signature Monogram and Damier patterns, with natural cowhide piping.

The Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” by Virgil Abloh to be auctioned exclusively at Sotheby’s. - Credit: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Each pair will be sold with a Louis Vuitton pilot case in monogram-embossed orange leather, with a 3D tag in orange leather with a white swoosh on top. To coincide with the sale, the shoes and the sneaker trunk, which is also exclusive to the auction, will be exhibited in the lobby of Sotheby’s New York from Wednesday to Feb. 8.

The event will precede the commercial launch of the Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” by Virgil Abloh, which will be available in limited quantities and exclusively through the Louis Vuitton store network, the company said.

Abloh, the founder of luxury streetwear brand Off-White and artistic director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton, was involved in the early organization of the auction and its surrounding events. “The auction will take place in association with his family,” Vuitton said.

Born in Rockford, Ill., of Ghanaian parents, Abloh is survived by his wife Shannon, his children Lowe and Grey, his sister Edwina, and his parents Nee and Eunice.

Abloh designed 47 pairs of Nike “Air Force 1” sneakers for the spring show, bringing together his two biggest brand partners in an homage to hip-hop culture. Vuitton said it plans to stage an exhibition of all the designs, made in its shoemaking workshop in Italy, with details to be revealed at a later date.

The Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” by Virgil Abloh and pilot case to be auctioned exclusively at Sotheby’s. - Credit: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

In the notes for the collection, revealed in a film called “Amen Break,” the brand said the partnership was inspired by the cover of the 1988 album “It Takes Two” by hip-hop duo Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock. It shows E-Z Rock wearing a Nike Air Force 1 basketball trainer altered with a swoosh adorned in the LV monogram.

“The cover embodied the hip-hop community’s early practice of hacking together high fashion and sportswear, sidelining diverging brands with equal reverence. A cultural symbol in its own right, today the Nike Air Force 1 serves as an objet d’art emblematic of self-generated subcultural provenance,” Vuitton said at the time.

To distinguish them from the original Nike Air Force 1, the sneakers were made with materials employed in Abloh’s Louis Vuitton men’s collections, and were styled with quote marks, a signature of Off-White, which has a highly successful collaboration with Nike.

The style in the Sotheby’s auction features the word “Air” written on the sole, and the French word “Lacet” on the laces. From Wednesday, in the lead-up to the auction, select individuals who inspired Abloh and the collaboration will receive pairs in exclusive colorways that will not be commercialized.

Abloh had established a long-term partnership with the Fashion Scholarship Fund to launch his scholarship fund, which was endowed with a personal donation from the designer and matching funds from his partners Evian, Farfetch, Louis Vuitton, New Guards Group and Nike. It supports the education of academically promising students of Black, African American, or African descent.

”As a Black designer, I found my way through school, and a mixture of creative projects, and I had to make a name for myself. That took a lot of years and a lot of meetings and a lot of runway shows and a lot of work, and I wanted to make that door open for a younger generation to sort of have a pathway that stays open,” Abloh told WWD at the time.

“I was a student on a campus that was largely not as diverse as the world is. And it’s important to set up this foundation specifically for Black students who may feel like in the industry of fashion, they don’t see many people that they can identify with,” he added.

Abloh said he named the fund “Post Modern” because recipients would also have access to career support services and mentoring.


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