Nike’s most iconic basketball sneaker is getting an haute couture upgrade.
Louis Vuitton menswear artistic director Virgil Abloh has reimagined the Air Force 1, first released by the activewear titan in 1982, to include design details befitting the French fashion house. The designer debuted a 21-shoe range of differently styled kicks on the catwalk at Louis Vuitton’s men’s summer 2022 collection last week in Paris.
Many of the shoes prominently feature the label’s recognizable checkered motif, punctuated with bright hues like green, yellow, blue and silver. The styles, which are made using luxe leathers and other premium materials, also feature proprietary details, according to Robb Report, like offset tags on tongues and small tags that modify the Nike Swoosh. Some styles feature leather embossed with the “LV” monogram on their uppers, and others bear the word “LACET” on the ends of their laces. The word “Air” on the shoes’ midsole is also printed twice.
According to the show notes, Abloh’s collection of men’s duds “zooms in and out on archetypes and subcultures, highlighting their cultural context and collective re-contextualization.”
The artistic director said the line was partially inspired by a 1969 drum solo from the song “Amen, Brother” by soul group The Winstons. The four-bar arrangement, known in music culture as the “Amen Break,” has been sampled countless times by artists of all genres, but has become an especially important foundation for hip-hop. Abloh said his forthcoming collection explores “the myth of ownership in contemporary creativity,” and artists’ propensity to co-opt and sample each other’s visions—as he does 21 times over with his new spin on one of Nike’s most stalwart styles. Meanwhile, the line’s apparel offering “sees the staples of suits, tracksuits, shirts and t-shirts re-interpreted on a never-ending loop.”
The Air Force 1 partnership is far from Abloh’s first collaboration with Nike. The designer, who helms luxury streetwear label Off-White, released a 352-page book with the company in January that details the relationship, beginning in 2017 with the release of “The Ten.” Nike launched a capsule collection with the creative, allowing Abloh to impose his artistic vision on 10 of the brand’s most well-known silhouettes: the Air Jordan I, Air Max 90, Air Presto, Nike Air VaporMax, Blazer Mid, Zoom Vaporfly, React Hyperdunk 2017, Air Force 1 Low, Air Max 97 and Converse Chuck Taylor.
“Icons” follows Abloh’s process over the 10 months it took to craft the styles, pulling from correspondence between himself and Nike’s design team as well as photos of Frankensteined footwear. The book encapsulates the journey to the final product lineup, showing “Swooshes sliced away from Air Jordans and reapplied with tape or thread,” and “Converse All Stars cut into pieces,” Nike said at the time.
Fans of The Ten have been waiting with bated breath for the next collab between the streetwear star and the athletic giant. On May 26, Abloh added fuel to the fire with an Instagram post seemingly teasing a forthcoming collection from Off-White and Nike, dubbed “Dear Summer.”
“It’s a whole thing,” he wrote alongside photos of a doctored Nike shoe box, complete with a hand-scribbled Swoosh.
On June 14, Nike debuted a preview of the collection, which includes 50 versions of the revamped Nike Dunk, on its SNKRs app. Invitations for exclusive access to shop the Nike x Off-White Dunk collection will become available to “select members of the community” beginning Aug. 9, the brand said, and will open up over a period of days.