When the famed and artistic pass, their work and legacy generally live on. And in some cases, so does their latest work. This has been the case with Virgil Abloh, who died at 41, succumbing to cancer. One of the creative’s last projects was the Nike Air Force 1 for Louis Vuitton. The breadth of that work which epitomizes the late designer’s creed that if you change three percent of something, you have made it new, is on display in a new pop-up exhibit sponsored by the luxury giant at the Greenpoint Terminal Market in Brooklyn.
Open from May 21st through the 31st, and accessible to the public free of charge, the “Dream Now” exhibition explores 47 styles of customized Air Force 1 shoes with the Louis Vuitton classic patterns altered and tweaked by Abloh that make them uniquely Vuitton uniquely Abloh.
Those touches include mixing the Monogram and Damier Ebner patterns, using the Vernis leather in bright color combos, duplicating the Swoosh, adding “Lacet” or Lace in French and Air to the shoelaces and sole, respectively, and using electric colors for the sole. Some styles went as far as to include a high-top shoe upper inside a low-top sneaker, and another is covered in pink faux fur.
Of the styles on display, nine pairs will be offered at retail and produced in quantity $2,750 for the low-top styles and $3,450 for the mid-top. The other one-of-a-kind styles will be kept in the Louis Vuitton archives. Currently, StockX has a pair of Louis Vuitton Monogram Brown Damier Azur for $210,000 or the highest bidder. The shoes will be made in Vuitton’s Maison Manufacture in Fiesso d’Artico, Venice, Italy.
The exhibit features 3D holograms of the shoe next to the real ones on display, often plastered to the side of a wall as if in motion. Abloh’s isms— “Are you a tourist or a purist,” “Who did it first? Where did they get the idea? Is it new?”— are on display in the blue sky and cloud-swathed gallery space.
An interactive space is a focal point of the show. Imagined in blue and purple and cordoned off by a chic Louis Vuitton fence evocative of a typical chain-link style is a colossal treehouse that serves as the thought process behind the shoes. Attendees can see a replica of the designers’ mood board, a short film featuring the designer, and a turntable. The childhood fantasy house is in line with the childhood dreams, especially those of young immigrants of color, and the ability to realize them Abloh instilled into his brand messaging.
Additionally supporting the show are several globes placed around the city in places such as Brooklyn’s Domino Park, Grand Central Station, and Columbus Circle, symbolizing Abloh’s desire to connect and unify people.
While the collection was initially set to launch in late 2021, it was delayed out of respect for Abloh’s family, who survived him, such as his wife, kids, parents, and sister. Earlier in the year, 200 pairs of the Monogram style were auctioned off through Sotheby’s. The auction raised $25.3 million, and proceeds will benefit Abloh’s Fashion Scholarship Fund for Black students. The first style of this partnership was released at retail on February 8th.
The 2022 launch, however, marks 40 years since Nike released the shoe. It was immortalized in hip-hop culture on the famous Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s album “It Takes Two,” as Rock wore a pair customized with a Louis Vuitton monogram by Harlem designer Dapper Dan.
The DJ turntable setup was a nod to a musical composition that was highly influential in the birth of hip-hop and jungle music genres. Called the Amen Break, the little-known drum break is a B-side created by the funk-soul group The Winstons in 1969.
According to a release by Louis Vuitton, the drum break inspired the 47 Nike Air Force 1 styles, referred to as “a cultural symbol in its own right and objet d’art emblematic of self-generated cultural provenance.” To Abloh, the original shoe is akin to the T-shirt and men’s suit that creatives iterate in their vision.