Sneakers have gradually crept into the realm of high fashion in recent years, and Virgil Abloh has had a lot to do with that transition. While he’s not quite the father of the ‘fashion sneaker’, he’s certainly helped to solidify its place on fashion week runways across the world. Going from the early days and his first streetwear brand, Pyrex Vision, to creating one of the most relevant streetwear brands of his generation, Virgil Abloh’s rise to fame is one for the history books.
Virgil Abloh and Louis Vuitton: A Sneaker Love Story
Date: February 15 2020
Creating ‘The Ten’ with Nike in 2017 set the tone for Virgil’s emergence into the wider sneakersphere consciousness, and helped to inspire the seemingly ubiquitous deconstruction trend. Following that ground-breaking colab with the Swoosh, Virgil went on to become the creative director of Louis Vuitton Menswear in 2018, effectively cementing his lofty sartorial status.
By this point in his career, Virgil was no newb when it came to sneakers. From a teenage sneaker obsession while growing up in Rockford, Illinois, Virgil had enjoyed multiple love affairs with a range of iconic Nike silhouettes, not to mention the models he churned out under his Off-White label.
Since his debut at LV, Virgil has brought some serious heat to the luxury brand. So, let’s tell the sneaker love story of Virgil Abloh and Louis Vuitton.
Louis Vuitton 408
The partnership’s first love child is arguably the most iconic: the Louis Vuitton 408 trainer. With an aesthetic akin to a pair of Avia 880s, the LV basketball sneaker is the epitome of luxury, each made up of 106 components and handcrafted over the course of six hours.
Dropping in a low, mid and high, LV wanted to highlight the new silhouette and its hardwood inspirations, launching a basketball campaign to support the drop. The precedent this shoe set was almost as massive as its retail price point – they’d set you back a cool $1600. Needless to say, the 408 took ‘ath-luxe’ into a whole new dimension.
If the hours-long production process and eye-watering price tag didn’t signal the LV 408’s exclusivity, a slew of limited colourways and regional releases ensured it had that hard-to-get appeal (in the best way possible, of course). The most famed would have to be when the Louis Vuitton residency in Chicago’s West Loop neighbourhood coincided with Virgil’s “FIGURES OF SPEECH” exhibition at the Chicago Museum of Modern Art, where the brand dropped an all-red capsule collection, complete with scarlet-saturated accessories and a fiery 408.
Another would be when LV dropped area-exclusive editions, which were basically the classic black 408 with the laces switched out for another colour. There was orange for Chicago, rose for Milan, yellow for London, dark blue for New York, green for Dubai, turquoise for Shanghai, red for Seoul, and violet for Tokyo.
Whether capitalising on the upwards trend of skate culture, or the hype surrounding A$AP Rocky’s Under Armour SRLo, the Louis Vuitton Zig Zag sneaker showed up exuding major Osiris D3 energy.
Thanks to LV PR team member Imed Soussi, who gave everyone a cheeky view of the Zig Zag way back in July 2018, the skate-inspired shoe hit retail stores in early 2019 dressed in an online-exclusive colourway. Do you think anyone skated their pair? We think not.
Back in May 2019, Virgil’s pal Don C revealed a trail-ready Louis Vuitton silhouette on IG. A swerve from his previous flashy basketball kicks and expensive skate silhouettes, this was Virgil’s push to cater for a more mature (and outdoorsy) audience. Like the Zig Zag before it, we’d be surprised if anyone actually took to the slopes in these, but it was a refreshing turn for the brand nonetheless.
Peeking into a crystal ball, Virgil smashed it out of the park with the 2054 Collection – a new tech line featuring 14 pieces that epitomised luxury activewear. He based the range on what he thought clothing would look like in the year 2054. Virgil came through with some functional futuristic footwear that rocked crazy iridescent details. A boot-like model was the main attraction, decked out in a cushioned collar that, when turned inside out, featured a colourful LV Monogramed print. Not as crazy as the boot, but still pretty insane, was the accompanying low-top silhouettes. Both dressed in black, they looked lean, mean, and straight out of the year 2054.