News that Abloh, who was the artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear at the time of his death late last year, would be putting his spin on proverbial Nike shoe (with Vuitton as a luxurious third collaborator) arrived last June, and it felt like a full-circle moment for a designer who built his Off-White label by making unauthorized riffs on branded designer goods, in turn riffing on the “knock-ups” legacy of Harlem atelier Dapper Dan. The sneaker, officially referred to as the Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” by Virgil Abloh, made its debut earlier this year, in an edition of 200 pairs that sold for a record-breaking $25.3 million in auction at Sotheby’s, with proceeds going to a scholarship fund for Black fashion students in Abloh’s name.
This past weekend, an installation opened at the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse in Brooklyn to showcase 47 iterations of Abloh’s “Air Force 1,” his signature quotation marks outlasting his institutional co-signs that made them necessary in the first place. At the door, attendees (more than a few of whom, on Monday morning, were wearing Off-White Nikes) receive a line sheet of the 47 pairs on display. Inside the exhibition is a maze of mirror-and-concrete structures that reflect the LED-paneled floor of a cloudy blue sky. Some of the structures bear illuminated Abloh-isms: “Are you a tourist or a purist?” “Who did it first? Where did they get the idea? Is it new?” Sneakers appear to be walking across the mirrored walls and ceilings, as though the space were an ethereal, fantastical, purgatorial Foot Locker. The shoes themselves will release in June, with nine iterations going on sale starting at $2,750.