Having lent his creative direction to everyone from Kanye West to Lil Uzi Vert, Abloh’s influence has manifested itself in all corners of contemporary youth culture.
Most recently, he was approached by Nike to deconstruct some of its most revered sneakers, resulting in ‘The Ten’ collection which has generated worldwide hype with its DIY aesthetic.
From court classics like the Jordan 1 to the lightweight, bubble-centric Vapormax, Abloh left his signature mark on Nike’s arsenal of footwear favourites.
Every element of the collaboration — from the physical products to the digital presence — focuses heavily on presentation, and regardless of the opinions we hold towards each shoe, it is clear that every element has been designed to challenge our perception and expectations.
The reinterpretation of classics will always polarise opinions, but by testing our perception of “acceptable design” and appealing to a niche, the future boundaries are set further and further apart, generating bolder and more daring designs.
” It’s easier to not consider it a collaboration, and just to focus on the design… I don’t have a favourite [shoe], I liked them all. The challenge was to try and make shoes I didn’t like.” ………. Virgil Abloh
Virgil took staple Kicks within Nike’s armory and treated each as a blank canvas, a design playground on which he has free roam.
Each silhouette has been radicalised to fit the aesthetic Virgil has nurtured over the past few years, using quotations to highlight the obvious — such as “AIR”, where unseen units sit within the shoe — as bold design statements.
The Ten has allowed for a rare level of creative freedom within a collaboration, especially given the iconic status of some of the models reinterpreted within the collection.
The Jordan 1 has largely remained untouched throughout its history, with collaborative efforts often focusing on alternative colourways or additional branding.
Virgil’s approach is one far more radical than one we are used to with Nike; each shoe has a stripped-down textile aesthetic that uses materials and layering to build on the bare bones provided by the sportswear giant.
In celebration of his collaboration with Nike, ‘The Ten’ pop up in Sydney, Virgil came to Sydney to talk to a large gathering of Sneakerheads and industry stalwarts about what it’s like collaborating with such an iconic brand and his key to success right now.
Virgil didn’t disappoint and arrived around lunchtime to give a talk and to host the Workshop around a Nike icon, the Air Force 1 on its 35th birthday.
Virgil Abloh kindly held a Reconstruction Workshop in the top level of Pop-Up space and those VIP guests lucky enough to have scored an invite got a personal insight into Virgil’s creative process, and got to flex their own creativity when they reconstructed their own pair of Nike Air kicks right in front of his eyes.
Throughout the rollout of the products, we’ve seen Virgil champion change even further via Instagram, showing the evolution of his design ideas with the products, putting the spotlight on DIY culture and challenging us to constantly shift our perception and ideas regarding design and fashion
Customisation workshops pushed this ideal even further, giving consumers the opportunity to just do it and use a bare bones silhouette to recreate an icon in their own image.
Invited workshop participants ( and a few very lucky ” Kids” plucked at random from the long line queued out the front ) were each given a pair of Nike Air Force 1’s, some velcro, coloured swoosh’s, hammers and tools to create their own authentic shoes.
It was simple like being at school yet totally liberating to create something they were keen to have a go at doing. All the invited guests got stuck into the chance to follow Virgil’s lead and try to make a unique Kick just for themselves
As Nike says >> ” Just do it. ”
The team from BespokeInd, led by Damian Sim, prepped the workshop with Nike Air Force 1 stencils so some design re-construction pre-planning could be carefully undertaken by all the Workshop participants
Colourful and useful craft tool kits were supplied by Bespoke_Ind with pre- cut Nike swooshes, Off-White stencils, velcro, permanent colour texta pens, hole punches, eyelets, hammers, glues, straps, threads, and many more items to help everyone save some time
Specially made shoe laces were supplied by LaceSpace to the enjoyment of the workshop participants
By stripping each shoe down to its core, Nike’s vision remains while allowing for Virgil to weave Off-White’s aesthetic into every element of the shoe, such as sewn-on swooshes and monochrome palette.
It is this freedom of expression the sets this collaboration apart from the pack.
Where we are used to seeing additional or collaborative branding, Virgil toys with the branding provided by Nike.
The size and placement of swooshes are altered in ways that are foreign to both the shoe and the brand, with Off-White’s signature quotation marks acting like design notes on a blueprint.
It is the act of going backward that pushes these designs forwards, a process that is fundamental to the legacy of Nike and champion by Abloh across each model.
It’s here where the true success of the partnership shines through, as the ‘Just Do It’ slogan is embraced and put into practice.
While the white-on-white Air Force 1 is a masterpiece in itself – favoured by everyone from the Roc-A-Fella stable to Nelly – here was the chance for the Workshop attendees to get in touch with their Arts and Crafts side, on a more unusual canvas.
Some attendees used scalpels to remove full panels and tongues from their shoes, while others kept it more reserved with more downplayed, intricate detail.
Others simply scribbled on any blank space they could find, which seemed to be a popular and effective approach.
So how did our arts and crafts session go? …………………….. Let’s just say that designing a shoe is a lot harder than it looks !!!
From The Kickz Standz
Posted by The Kickz Stand on Wednesday, 15 November 2017
Virgil signed the Workshop participants Air force 1 reconstruction originals
“SAMPLE”™️ exchange with @VIRGILABLOH at our official @NIKE ‘Ten Icons Deconstructed’ workshop at @SUPPLYSTORE . It was an honour to say the least to have the opportunity to officially work with the top tier guys at Nike + @OFF___WHITE visionary Virgil Abloh. We are blessed that we could present our manually made 1of1 sample creation Off__White™️ Airmax 1 to him on our collaborative day in person. Thank you Virgil. Thank you NIKEau @NIKElab ….till the next project #upstep #nikeforever #virgilabloh #niketheten #nikelab #off___white__melbourne #off_white #personalidbespokeatelier #offwhitetheten #bespokefootwearatelier #off____white #thekickzstand #lacespace #hypebeast #hypebeastkicks #sneakerboy #sneakerfreakerfam #bespokeind #bespoke_ind #nikeau #nikelab #complexcon #nicekicks
Posted by Bespoke IND on Sunday, 19 November 2017
About Bespoke_Ind Melbourne
The ultimate commodity in the shoe game is rarity, and nothing jacks up desire more than the promise of one-of-one production.
The crew at BespokeIND know all about that caper. Having recently established their workshop in Melbourne, they are already making headlines by producing hand-built sneakers with an unprecedented eye for detail.
Exotic leather remakes, superb soleswaps and all-new designs built from the ground up – this is a one-stop shop of limitless creativity.
We’re a bespoke atelier, focusing on shoe making, but we’re capable of working on anything with a stitch.
I like to think we’re bringing the handmade craft of the old days back into sneakers, which hasn’t really been done before.
We don’t limit ourselves to just footwear though. Watch straps, knife rolls, handbags, wallets – we’ll do anything our clients want. If they have an idea we can make their dream a reality.