Why Those Closest to Virgil Abloh Believe the Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 Is the Greatest Sneaker Collab Ever

On Nov. 30, the Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 by Virgil Abloh will be honored as Shoe of the Year at the 36th annual FN Achievement Awards. Below is an article from the magazine’s Nov. 28 print issue about its incredible impact.

Virgil Abloh’s second FNAA Shoe of the Year might his most celebrated work to date.

The Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 collection, a flawless marriage of street culture and high fashion, is considered by those closest to the late design icon as a proper final statement to his prolific career.

Fans of the Louis Vuitton men’s artistic director agree. In February, Sotheby’s auctioned 200 pairs of the Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1, bringing in $25.3 million — the auction house’s highest charity total in nearly 10 years — with proceeds benefitting The Virgil Abloh “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund. The top lot in the auction, which was for a size 5, brought in $352,800, which Sotheby’s said is more than 23 times its $15,000 high estimate.

And in the summer, a few lucky fans were able to snag pairs when a handful of looks were made available for premium prices.

Here, those closest to Abloh reveal why the Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 was an instant icon.

Shannon Abloh, CEO and managing director, Virgil Abloh Securities

“The Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 perfectly encapsulated Virgil’s artistic vision and his deep admiration for a classic sneaker. Building on Nike’s timeless Air Force 1 with Louis Vuitton’s unparalleled elegance, the shoe is simply beautiful. I’ve loved seeing it resonate in culture and I’m thrilled to see it honored with the Shoe of the Year award, an incredible achievement for everyone who contributed to this collaboration.”

Don C, Designer

“It’s undeniably the biggest sneaker collaboration of all time. Nike and Louis Vuitton coming together, two powerhouses of sport and fashion colliding — and who’s better to bring it to the forefront than Virgil Abloh? This year is the 40-year anniversary of the Air Force 1. It’s the foundation of sneaker culture universally. For Virgil to flip it and take it to the ultimate luxury brand, it’s a pinnacle moment of sneaker culture. It has the cues of Virgil and Off-White all throughout the shoe, from the color blocking to his aesthetic of showing the behind the scenes of the shoes where you see the loose edges. And people were going crazy for them. I’ve seen ridiculous prices on the resale market for them — and the auction spoke for itself. Some pairs went for over $250,000. It shows that the market was ready for it, people appreciate it and they’re works of art — especially the auction pairs that came in a briefcase. Even if you don’t wear the shoe, you want to collect it, you want to own it. Culture moves so fast, and the internet flashes so much fast food in front of us every day, but we received true sustenance with this collaboration.”

Fraser Cooke, Nike global senior director of catalyst brand management

“The shoe is special because it represents the ultimate fusion of two time-honored and once disparate archetypes within fashion and culture. The only time both entities were seen together was when adopted by the hip-hop community and given new meaning. This was the ultimate inspiration for Virgil, and he was deliberate in his process from ideation to execution, as evident in the show, collection and film in which the Nike x Louis Vuitton AF1 debuted. The Nike x Louis Vuitton AF1 is an example of Virgil catching lightning, and how special for all parties to have embraced this moment together. It affirms Virgil’s uncanny ability to converge two partners and audiences that meant a lot to him, while paying homage to a very important community that shaped him.”

Heron Preston, Designer

“What makes this so special is the cultural significance. The Air Force 1 came out in 1982 and the streets adopted it, made it their own. If you look at customization and personalization, people like Dapper Dan became famous for taking luxury materials and applying them to objects that brands weren’t making. You see him put it on tire covers on Jeeps. Gucci and Louis were never doing that. Then people started putting it on sneakers, and it would show up often on Air Force 1s. For some reason, Louis Vuitton never embraced this until Virgil came around. Before Virgil, these were all unauthorized, but this is an official collaboration. That’s why Virgil is the voice of the people. He mastered taking highs and the lows and executing at such a high level. And it was never alienating, it was always a community thing. You would see that in his other designs, taking street fashion and applying it to his position as men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton. All of a sudden, you have guys like [rap star] Jim Jones from Dipset celebrating these pieces because these are what he remembered seeing on the streets of Harlem [in New York]. Virgil is the glue between the streets and the suites.”

For 36 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards — often called the “Shoe Oscars” — have celebrated the style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans. The 2022 event is supported by presenting sponsor Nordstrom, as well as Caleres, FDRA, Merrell, Vibram and Volumental.

Access exclusive content