“Laced Up” is Billboard Style‘s new series that dives deep into the curation of athletic brands’ sneaker collaborations with all-star musicians — from Kanye West’s Yeezys to Travis Scott’s growing Nike collection — that deserve a place in your closet.
When it comes to leaving an impact on sneaker culture, Virgil Abloh is making a strong case. The presence of the fashion designer and artist (who also moonlights as a DJ) goes back to 2012, when he founded the beloved luxury brand OFF-WHITE in Milan, Italy. It was formerly known as PYREX VISION before Abloh rebranded in 2013.
Artists like friend/frequent collaborator Kanye West, Jay-Z, Drake, Demi Lovato and Billie Eilish have been seen rocking the industrial streetwear-inspired label, which has grown into a pop culture entity. Since its inception, collaborations with major brands like Levi’s, Moncler, SSENSE and even IKEA have helped OFF-WHITE become one of the world’s most talked-about fashion lines.
In 2018, Abloh became the artistic director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection (and also the first of African descent to lead the house), likely off the strength of how acclaimed the OFF-WHITE brand became. But OFF-WHITE’s pairing with Nike is in the running to be its strongest team-up yet.
It began when Nike called upon Abloh in 2017 for a project that would allow him to add his twist to the sportswear brand’s most popular sneakers. The collaboration, known as simply “The Ten,” became one of Nike’s most highly-anticipated drops. The sneaker community raved at The Ten since there was nothing quite like it at the time. Abloh deconstructed 10 different models that were split into two packs of five for the November 2017 release.
“TEN ICONS RECONSTRUCTED” by @virgilabloh photograph c/o @tyronelebon at @em___pty___gallery Presented for your inspiration, a celebration of then iconic Nike, INC. footwear classics in collaboration with designer Virgil Abloh. Air Jordan 1, Nike Air Presto, Nike Air Max 90, Nike Blazer, Nike Air Vapormax, Nike Air Force 1, Nike React Hyperdunk, Nike Zoom Vaporfly, Nike Air Max 97. The purchase opportunity is selected ONLY via email. In order to enter the raffles please follow the rules below: You can send one email to: specialproducts@off—white.com for each raffle. You can win just one pair on the nine style. In case of victory, it is possible to purchase the shoes only in our NYC store @em___pty___gallery (51 Mercer Street) and only in the timetable forwarded by private email to the winners. Only the owner of the ID are entitled to buy the shoes in store. Raffles timetable: 1. On Oct 27th from 9am to 7pm: Raffle for Air Jordan 1 and Blazer 2. On Oct 29th from 9am to 7pm: Raffle for Air Presto and Air Max 90 3. On Oct 31th from 9am to 7pm: Raffle for React Hyperdunk 4. On Nov 2nd from 9am to 7pm: Raffle for Zoom Vaporfly and Air Vapor Max 5. On Nov 4th from 9am to 7pm: Raffle for Air Force 1 and Air Max 97 Winners will be informed Tuesday Nov 7th by private email.
The first pack, titled “REVEALING,” contained classics like the Nike Air Jordan 1, Air Max 90, Air Presto, Air VaporMax, and Blazer Mid. The “GHOSTING” pack included an Air Max 97, React Hyperdunk, Air Force 1, Zoom Vaporfly, and Converse Chuck Taylor All Star. Sneakerheads got a glimpse of the collection through Instagram posts and co-signs from Drake, supermodel Naomi Campbell and even Michael Jordan himself.
Due to the high demand, the sneakers were released sporadically through raffles on the Nike SNKRS app, a special e-mail selection process through OFF-WHITE and later through Nike’s online store. Sneakerheads scrambled to get a pair, and those who were lucky got the chance for an ultimate flip as each pair in the collection had resale numbers in the thousands. The highest asking price for the Air Jordan 1 OFF-WHITE “Chicago” size 11 is currently sitting at a hefty $4,100 on StockX.
The next pair to drop in the sought-after collection is the Air Jordan 5, which officially drops today (Feb. 15). Abloh’s take on this iconic Jordan model features a textile mesh body with translucent panels spread throughout the sneaker that can be cut out for customization. In a statement, Abloh explained the sneaker itself is inspired by the metallic colorway of the Air Jordan 5’s — the first Jordan pair he ever owned.
The original design intention was inspired by the fact these shoes via Michael Jordan himself were originally energized with a touch of “unrealness”. In order to live up to my own expectations my take on them needed some surrealism embedded within the transaction of owning a pair just the same. This video does the rest of the long talking. Proceed with caution ???®
Nike and Abloh’s brainchild has grown since its inception three years ago. There have been over 30 sneakers birthed from the collaboration with each one growing more and more difficult to purchase. The partnership not only propelled Abloh and his brand but also regenerated interest in some of Nike’s classic models.
The OFF-WHITE X Nike collection also helped widen the gap between the sportswear brand and its competition. Before Abloh came along, Nike didn’t hold much weight in celebrity compared to Adidas’ successful collaborations with West (Yeezy x Adidas) and Pharrell (Hu by Pharrell x Adidas).
But thanks to Abloh’s innovative designs and respect within the fashion community, Nike continues to hold its spot as the leading brand in footwear.