Sneakers, Sports Memorabilia & Modern Collectibles

The History Behind the Louis Vuitton Nike Air Force 1 by Virgil Abloh

By Zoë Vanderweide
Discover rare and exclusive Nike sneakers , including Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1s at our Online Sneaker Shop and our team's Instagram @sothebyssneakers .

The “Refashion” History of the Nike AF1

Designed in 1982 by Bruce Kilgore, the Nike Air Force 1 is one of the most successful shoes ever created. The silhouette’s cultural significance was immortalized in 1988, when DJ E-Z Rock appeared on the cover of the album It Takes Two sporting custom AF1s. The shoes, altered by legendary Harlem designer Dapper Dan, featured a Swoosh adorned in the Louis Vuitton Monogram pattern– an embodiment of “refashion,” the practice of hacking together high fashion and sportswear brands with equal reverence.

Virgil Abloh and the AF1 as Objet d’Art

In March of 2018, Louis Vuitton named visionary Off-White designer Virgil Abloh as its new men’s artistic director. While Abloh’s tenure was cut tragically short by his passing in November of 2021, his historic appointment – as the most powerful Black executive in the world’s most powerful luxury group – left an indelible mark on both the streetwear and high fashion landscape.

Prior to joining Louis Vuitton, Abloh produced a number of collaborations with Nike through his design label Off-White. At the helm of Louis Vuitton’s menswear division, he realized an unprecedented opportunity to bridge the worlds of streetwear, Hip Hop and high fashion. Building on the silhouette’s “refashion” history, Abloh recognized the Air Force 1 as an objet d’art in its own right, emblematic of the boundary-breaking creativity of the Hip Hop culture that shaped him.

The Louis Vuitton Nike Air Force 1 first previewed in Summer of 2021 on the Maison’s Spring/Summer 2022 runway. In total, Abloh designed 47 bespoke pairs of LV sneakers for the collection. Fusing the trainer’s classic codes with the insignia and materials of Louis Vuitton, Abloh’s Nike Louis Vuitton sneakers seamlessly connect the rich histories of both iconic brands. Every pair of LV sneakers was made by Louis Vuitton in Fiesso d’Artico, marking the first time in the AF1’s 40-year history that the model was crafted outside of a Nike factory. All 47 of Abloh’s Louis Vuitton Nike shoes feature materials employed in his Louis Vuitton men’s collections, and are styled with his signature quotation marks. Released posthumously, the Louis Vuitton Air Force 1s represent the last sneaker designs of Abloh’s storied career.

January 2022: An Exclusive Expression of the Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” by Virgil Abloh Comes to Auction

For the groundbreaking first release of the LV Nike Air Force 1, an edition of 200 Louis Vuitton Nike shoes in an exclusive colorway were brought to global online auction at Sotheby’s in January 2022. Dressed in Louis Vuitton’s emblematic Monogram and Damier patterns with natural cowhide piping, each pair of exquisitely handcrafted Louis Vuitton Nike shoes came with its own orange pilot case in Monogram Taurillon leather. Prior to his passing, Abloh himself was involved in the early stages of planning the sale and its surrounding events. The LV Nike Air Force 1 auction was an unqualified success raising $25.3 million, with Louis Vuitton’s proceeds donated to The Virgil Abloh “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund, which is dedicated to fostering equity and inclusion in the fashion industry by providing scholarships and mentoring for students of Black, African-American or African descent.

January - February 2022: Louis Vuitton Air Force 1 Friends and Family Pairs Generate Hype

In early 2022, news also broke of “The List”: a rarefied group of designers, athletes, musicians and others receiving exclusive “Friends and Family” pairs of Louis Vuitton Nike Air Force 1s. Big names, from LeBron James to DJ Khaled to Eminem, were gifted with Nike Air Force 1 Louis Vuitton sneakers from a lineup of eight select colorways. Each Friends and Family Louis Vuitton Nike Air Force 1 style – in black, green, orange, purple, red, Royal Blue, University Blue and yellow – features a solid-colored upper debossed with LV Monogram print, contrasted with white Swooshes, laces and midsole.

June 2022: The First General Release Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1s Hit the Market

The Louis Vuitton Air Force 1’s long-awaited general release was preceded by a dreamlike exhibition of all 47 of Abloh’s visionary LV AF1 designs at the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse in Brooklyn in May of 2022. The immersive installation was a celebration both of Abloh’s creative legacy and the merging of the two iconic brands, presented on the occasion of the Air Force 1’s 40th anniversary. Shortly thereafter, in June of 2022, the first Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1s finally hit stores. The release, which marked the retail debut of the historic Nike Air Force 1 Louis Vuitton collaboration, consisted of 9 covetable styles.

Three monochrome editions of the Louis Vuitton Air Force 1 offer a sleek and sophisticated take on the classic Nike shoe. LV AF1 Lows dressed in tonal white Monogram-embossed calf leather pay homage to the iconic white on white AF1, while a tonal black colorway in Monogram-embossed suede features on both Low and Mid-silhouettes.

Abloh’s penchant for bold color is on vivid display in a trio of two-tone LV sneakers, featuring bases of white Monogram-embossed calf leather accented with either green, red or blue Monogram leather overlays.

The drop also features two Louis Vuitton x Nike AF1 sneakers in eye-catching metallics: one with a silver metallized canvas toe and multicolored panels of Monogram-embossed suede, the other dressed entirely in dazzling gold Monogram-embossed metallized canvas.

Finally, a pair of LV AF1 Mids are dressed in the Maison’s iconic Damier pattern with a “Louis Vuitton'' graffiti motif, created by artist Ghusto Leon. All nine releases are embellished with Abloh’s signature quotation marks and written graphics, including “LACET” on the laces and “AIR” on the midsole, and feature tongue tags with Louis Vuitton branding.

In total, 21 Nike Air Force 1 Louis Vuitton retail release styles are expected. With nine revealed, the remaining twelve Louis Vuitton x Nike shoes are hotly anticipated– but the next drop remains, as yet, undisclosed.

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