A Closer Look At The Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1

May 27, 2022 by Joey Birch

A Closer Look At The Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1

Despite not being with us in a physical form, Virgil Abloh’s influence is still felt within the sneaker and further expansive fashion space. 

The tenacity of the artist has caused unbelievable effects not just in streetwear, but in high-fashion, allowing it to break into mainstream culture ever since the debut of his social experiment ‘PYREX VISION’ in 2012 which saw the designer take vintage Ralph Lauren and screenprint over the top of them; a trend that would go onto inspire brands such as Hood By Air. 

Following the project, while playing a part in a variety of other brands, projects and movements, Abloh would create the juggernaut that almost everyone, regardless of their interest in the culture, knows: OFF-White

Fast forward to 2017, OFF-White and the Swoosh come together for the first time on what is possibly the most well-renowned collaborations of all time. Titled ‘The Ten’, the collection showcased ten of Nike’s biggest silhouettes, including the Air Jordan 1, Air Max 90 and Air Presto, each featuring the signature deconstructed aesthetic that OFF-White is best known for. 

It was also within this collection, that Abloh took his first stab at creating an Air Force 1. Initially released in a vintaged off white (no pun intended) colourway, alongside an all-black ‘MOMA’ variant as part of the ongoing art gallery series, the pair became one of the most popular additions to the collection. 

OG Nike Air Force 1, 1982

The iconic silhouette designed by the late Bruce Kilgore in 1982 has become a mainstay in everyone's sneaker collection. Whether they’re switching them out after 2 wears or waiting for them to be on the verge of completely breaking down, a trend recently popping up via TikTok. With 2022 celebrating 40 years of the silhouette, the timing of the release is the perfect way to shine a light on what has become one of the most iconic models of all time whilst also further commemorating the incredible work that Virgil Abloh has provided throughout his time. 

Just one year after the Chicago designer released his first collection with Nike, he had taken over the scene almost immediately becoming an overnight success which was of course bolstered by his close friendship and previous work with the likes of Kanye West, Don C et al. Thanks to Abloh’s early days with West as an intern at Fendi, he was already well versed in European high-fashion brands. 

In March 2018, it was announced that Virgil would become Jim Jones' predecessor upon his move to Dior, becoming the Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton. While initial reactions were split, the anticipation for the collection was through the roof. The collection did not disappoint with modern sportswear/utilitarian inspired garments hitting on all cylinders, further adding to the still-growing catalogue of exceptional work from the late designer. 

While Abloh’s move to the Parisian fashion house plays a key part in building the groundwork for the upcoming Air Force 1 collection, some notoriety can be given to previous partnerships LV has engaged in with the likes of Supreme in 2017 which showcased a full runway show in collaboration with the New York skate brand in addition to their capsule collection with BAPE designer Nigo titled ‘Louis Vuitton LV²’, which has allowed LV to be introduced into the streetwear scene with open arms. 

Unlike most sneaker releases nowadays, the collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Nike on the Air Force 1 was completely unseen. The sneakers were first debuted during the SS22 ‘Amen Break’ runway show which blended sportswear with a more high-fashion aesthetic featuring tracksuits in conjunction with trench coats, and suit attire amongst other features. 

You’d be forgiven for not remembering the collection and the attention to detail that went into the 78 piece runway show which featured the legendary Goldie as a model; because what most people took away, was what was on feet. As quickly as they hit the runway, images of the LV AF1 were appearing online causing waves of people to lose their minds trying to figure out how they could get their hands on what will likely be named the greatest sneaker of 2022, if not the decade. 

Showcasing a range of silhouettes including the AF1 Low and Mid, utilising a variety of materials and details including soft leather panels with the Louis Vuttion crest stamped into them alongside denim style overlays as well as the classic monogrammatic brown and black design found on some of LVs classic pieces, playing with the idea of bootleg culture which has seen custom pairs of the Air Force 1 with the LV pattern incorporated. Every pair featured the signature OFF-White “Air” on the midsole above the heel as well as an additional tongue tag and “Lacet” on the laces. 

Following their debut during the 2021 Paris Fashion Week, discussions about just how many pairs will be released, if any, as well as trying to decipher possible designs and colourways ensued. 

While it appears that there are set to be eight all over leather versions of the incredibly hyped sneakers, arguably the most popular design of them all featuring the LV logo stamped across the entire upper, we finally have confirmation of the full 47 pair collection. 

The full collection has been put on display in Brooklyn, New York City, at the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse. The exhibition has been coined “the Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” by Virgil Abloh exhibition” for obvious reasons and gives a first-hand glimpse at pairs that were originally seen during the debut at PFW, as well as providing the first look at many other previously unseen pairs. 

Some of the designs include a Lakers inspired Air Force 1 Mid with a double-layered heel support as well as a number of more colourful eclectic designs featuring bright Swooshes and midsoles as well as an all-over hairy design in conjunction with a set of more simple colour blocked pairs in white and red, green, blue etc.

Other, more personal details, include the addition of the Ghanain flag, where Abloh’s parents were born; and other pairs tagged with the Vuitton logo by graffiti artist Ghusto Leon who has worked with Abloh previously on the Louis Vuitton Pre-FW22 collection. 

Kanye West x Louis Vuitton 'Jasper', 2009

Keen observers may notice that numbers 3 and 14 on the sheet feature a bright pink midsole - a possible nod to Kanye West’s collaboration with Louis Vuitton in 2009 which featured the ‘Don’, ‘Hudson’ and ‘Jasper’ all of which featured the same pink midsole. 

With each pair of the Air Force 1s being handmade with the finest materials you’d come to expect from Louis Vuitton, only a small number from the collection are due to be released to the public after 200 pairs in various sizes, along with an orange LV trunk was auctioned via Sotheby's website totalling a huge $25.3 million in sales, all of which was to benefit Abloh's Fashion Scholarship Fund for Black students. A further nine have been sold to exclusive VIP clients, however, it is yet to be confirmed how many will be available to the wider public. 

The Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 is more than just a sneaker, it’s a monument to Virgil Abloh’s life and mind. His intricate eye for detail and relentless drive to create artistic expressions through every facet of his work. A loving celebration of a sneaker that will remain timeless for decades to come and an artist whose influence will be felt for just as long.