Many are familiar with all the recent Nike x Off White collaborations but not many of us know the origins of the partnership between the two brands. In 2017, Nike and Off-white designer, Virgil Abloh, struck a deal that many consider has changed the sneaker game and resell market indefinitely. The first collaboration between the two brands consisted of “The Ten”. It initially involved the deconstruction of ten iconic Nike silhouettes by Virgil. The ten sneakers were individually broken down by Abloh, and then rebuilt with a slightly different design and rearranged components. These 10 silhouettes were sold in extremely limited quantities all over the world and sold out in a matter of minutes on most retail websites, making these pairs highly sought after. In the years following the original release, we would see more iterations and colourways of certain silhouettes and more collaborations between the worlds leading sportswear brand and the fashion giant. This blog post focuses on the history of Virgil and Nike’s “The Ten” collaboration.
Virgil Abloh’s designs and clothing items are certainly not what mainstream fashion generally looks like. Virgil capitalised on this opportunity and brought out a line of clothing items that included deconstructed looks as well as zip-ties. This deconstructed and zip-tie look carried on over to his collaboration with Nike. “The Ten”, shoes were deconstructed and redesigned by Virgil throughout the early months of 2017.
The design process included Virgil carefully ripping apart each shoe with an X-ACTO knife and reconstructing them by adding certain features such as extra stitching, fabric and relocating certain parts, all while maintaining the foundation of the silhouette. Each shoe also included the signature Off-White zip-tie which consists of the date, name of collaboration and 'zip-tie' written in bold white letters. Another key feature to each of the shoes was the added the name of the main material of the specific shoe to the midsole in bold black quotation marks, a signature trait of Off-White and Abloh. These examples include 'AIR' and 'FOAM'.
Revealing and Ghosting Pack
The 10 shoes were divided into two themes. The first, “REVEALING,” was designed to look accessible: hand-cut, open-source and reconstructed. It included the Air Jordan I, Nike Air Max 90, Nike Air Presto, Nike Air VaporMax and Nike Blazer Mid.
The second, “GHOSTING,” was designed with translucent uppers to further the idea of revealing and they united the second set of silhouettes through common material. It included the Converse Chuck Taylor, Nike Zoom Fly SP, Nike Air Force 1 Low, Nike React Hyperdunk 2017 and Nike Air Max 97.
Air Force 1
The Air Force 1 kept its original form and features, with the deconstruction occurring on the tongue and the laces. Abloh removed the signature Nike Swoosh logo that is placed on both the medial and lateral section of the shoe and restitched it in the same original place, showing all the stitches. It was originally released in the all-white colour but was later re-released in an all volt and all black colour as well as a few exclusive colourways.
Air Jordan 1
By far the most hype and sought-after pair out of the collection, Virgil decided to use the Chicago colours that Michael Jordan played in, being white red and black. Abloh completely took apart the shoe and readjusted the key elements and placed them around the shoe. The shoe features “AIR” typography on the midsole, as well as an orange hit on the heel, which seems to imitate a price sticker. The lateral Swoosh also appears to be pinned to the upper instead of fully stitched. He then later designed an all-white Europe exclusive version followed by a light blue coloured edition of the shoe in 2018, containing the traditional University of North Carolina colours, a common colour used for Air Jordan shoes as it represents the university at which Michael Jordan attended.
The Air Presto was completely remodelled and had many of its key elements placed in different locations on the shoe. It also included the addition of a back strap for support. Abloh added another tongue on top of the original with the original colour being beige and black. It was remade in an all-white colour and later an all-black colour later in August 2018.
The VaporMax was Nike’s big technology story of 2017, so it was no surprise to see the model become part of “The Ten.” This version featured a heel tab, chunky stitching around the Swoosh, and touches like the orange price tag detail and shipping address text. The shoe was later released in an all-black and all white colourway as well.
On the Off-White™ Nike Blazer Mid, the Swoosh was once again exaggerated, extending to the shoe’s midsole. Speaking to The Business of Fashion, Abloh explained, “That shoe exemplifies making a product interesting by only changing a design element by 3 percent. The Swoosh logo of that shoe overlaps the sole without it detracting away from the iconography, which makes it more interesting and wearable." In October 2018, an 'All Hallows Eve' version was released, in a vanilla and orange colour. It was accompanied by an all-black 'Grim Reaper' edition of the shoe. This was known as the Halloween pack.
Air Max 97
The Air Max 97 was redesigned 20 years after the first-ever release of the Nike Air Max 97. It featured an all-white colour with a remodelled tongue and Nike tag with 'AIR' in bold black writing along the midsole. It was later released in an all grey 'Menta' colour which was exclusive in women's sizes. The shoe was also released in an all-black colour as well.
Air Max 90
While the Air Force 1 and Air Jordan 1 align more with what we know about Abloh’s personal sneaker taste, the Off-White™ Air Max 90 came as a bit of a surprise. The Air Max 90 was remodelled by using different fabrics on the lower, middle and upper sections of the shoe. The tongue was disfigured, and a layer of foam was added below it. This was initially released in the original beige colour but was later released in an all-black colour and a white color colour with a translucent sole.
Zoom Vaporfly SP
The ZoomVaporfly SP was deconstructed but maintained majority of its key elements and structure. It was designed in the original white colour but also included a translucent midsection and an orange undertone and included 'FOAM' in bold black writing along the midsole. This shoe was later released in an all-black and a 'Tulip' pink colour.
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star
The Nike x Off-White™ project folded in sub-brand Converse by including OG basketball silhouette the Chuck Taylor All Star. The high-top silhouette received the Off-White™ treatment, with “VULCANIZED” text on the sole, "SHOELACES" on the laces, and an Off-White™ zip-tie.
The React Hyperdunk is a Nike basketball shoe. It was reconstructed with a translucent strap over the shoe and disfigured tongue. The shoe featured 'FOAM' in bold black writing along the midsole of the shoe. The shoes were debuted in public during the season opening NBA game by Golden State Warrior Draymond Green in October 2017.
After the highly successful release of “The Ten”, further collaborations were released. This included the addition of multiple colourways of the initial ten shoes. Among these were a range of highly exclusive Air Force 1s including the Air Force One remodelled exclusively for the ComplexCon event run by Complex. The ComplexCon exclusive was an all-white iteration of the model and contained the signature Off-White location print on the inside of the shoe. The Air Force One was again remodelled in a collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art, , an all-black version with silver laces. In June 2019, a blue version was confirmed by Nike and Abloh and featured a baby-blue makeover of the shoe with a grey Nike Swoosh.
Another addition to the collaboration was a complete soccer themed release in light of the 2018 FIFA Football World Cup. It involved a reconstruction of the ZoomFly Mercurial Flyknit in both an all-black and all orange. This was released on June 14, 2018. It also included a full tracksuit top and bottoms as well as an orange Nike soccer ball.
American professional tennis player Serena Williams, who has a sponsorship deal with Nike, had her own personal addition to this collaboration which included her own tennis shoes and tennis wear. It included a ‘Queen’ version of the Blazer and Air Max 97.
For the year 2020, Virgil and Nike Collaborated again on the Nike Air Jordan 4 Off White which released in women’s sizes only. The shoe was extremely hard to come by with very few pairs making its way to South Africa. We are excited to see what Virgil has in store for the rest of the with a rumored Jordan 5 and Air Force 1 in the works.
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