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Air Force 1 x Louis Vuitton

When Nike partnered with Louis Vuitton in the early 2020s, it may have come as a surprise to some. The combination of the sportswear brand and the luxury fashion house was not such an obvious one, but for Virgil Abloh, the connection between the two made perfect sense. The legendary designer had become a master of creating high-end streetwear with his brand Off-White™ during the 2010s, culminating in him being named artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton in March 2018. A year before, he had worked on his first Nike designs, The Ten – a hugely successful collaboration that built a strong bond between the two and led to many more joint sneaker releases. By 2021, he was well-established within both companies and had been given more creative control over Louis Vuitton, making it the ideal moment to bring the brand together with Nike for a new collaborative endeavour. The result was the remarkable Nike Air Force 1 x Louis Vuitton collection – a set of highly desirable shoes that fused Louis Vuitton’s luxurious aesthetic and Abloh’s distinctive streetwear styling with Nike’s iconic Air Force 1 silhouette.

The collection was first teased at the Louis Vuitton Men’s Spring-Summer 2022 runway show in June 2021. On display were 21 Air Force 1s by Virgil Abloh, each one featuring his signature design elements, including capitalised Helvetica text and spiky edged swoosh tags in a range of colours. These were part of a larger group of 47 AF1 designs, and with many of the  colourways now presented to the world, it was only a matter of time before they would be available for purchase. The initial sale was done through a Sotheby’s auction in January 2022, in which just 200 pairs of a Brown Monogram Damier edition of the Nike Air Force 1 x  Louis Vuitton  were made available to a global audience. Its rich mahogany upper is made of fine leather with a delicate LV Monogram printed over it and the famous Louis Vuitton Damier pattern making a checkerboard over the toe box, swooshes and heel panel. Each pair comes in a sturdy pilot case covered in a bright orange Monogram Taurillon leather, giving the owner a true feeling of luxury and exclusivity.

Following this, several Friends and Family pairs were gifted to a small group of celebrities, including DJ Khaled and LeBron James, bringing the Nike Air Force 1 x Louis Vuitton partnership even more hype. Those unable to get their hands on one of these rare offerings would have to wait until June 2022 for another chance to own a pair. At this point, nine more colourways became available to the general public, each with its own distinctive look. Three of these new  Air Force 1 x Louis Vuitton sneakers are monochromatic, with classic Triple White and Triple Black versions made in a Low style. While the former is made of premium leather, the latter employs plush suede, and each has the LV Monogram pattern debossed subtly into its respective upper. The third is a Mid edition of the Triple White, its higher ankle secured by a strap but otherwise with the same Monogram debossing and metallic gold lettering on the tongue, heel and medial flank.

Three more of the shoes in this initial release incorporate classic colour-blocking effects alongside a new canvas-like material. This soft fabric forms the colourful overlays of each, one in Gym Green, another in Comet Red and the last in a bold Team Royal Blue. The Monogram pattern appears again, this time printed slightly larger than the debossed version on the white leather underlayer of each colourway. Next came two AF1s with shiny metallic effects, one Metallic Gold, the other Metallic Silver. The latter deploys glossy chrome material on the toe, with black, yellow, green and purple panels on the rest, while the former goes for a completely golden upper. Finally, the ninth sneaker is another mid-top with a leather upper decorated in the Damier pattern and distinguished by the dynamic artwork printed onto its lateral sidewall. Designed by Milan-based tattoo artist Ghusto Leon, this striking visual features the word “Vuitton” in stylistic lettering that earned the shoe its nickname: Graffiti.

Despite the historic team of Nike, Louis Vuitton and Virgil Abloh ensuring the success of these nine pairs of Air Force 1 sneakers, the rest of the collection is yet to be released. Members of the public were able to view all 47 designs at an exhibition in Brooklyn in May 2022, but that’s as close as anyone has got to most of them. It’s unclear how many of the shoes will eventually be made available, so collectors might never be able to own the entire set, thus giving it an air of mystique and making it even more compelling. Since the June 2022 launch, no more Louis Vuitton Air Force 1s have been brought out, leaving fans to speculate over which will come next and which will remain forever out of reach.

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