Where do Off-White x Nike Releases Go From Here?
There’s no arguing that Nike captured lightning in a bottle with 2017’s ‘The Ten’ collaboration alongside Virgil Abloh. The union of the Swoosh and the celebrated Off-White designer – and now Louis Vuitton menswear frontman – resulted in some of the most coveted drops of the year; kicks like Abloh’s reconstructed Prestos were omnipresent on the year-end ‘best of’ lists from just about anyone who knows anything about sneakers. The collection’s reconstructed design language – not to mention the range’s liberal use of Abloh’s signature quotations and each shoe’s accompanying zip tie – not only managed to breathe new life into classics like the Air Jordan 1, Air Max 90, and Blazer (all three of which took on a hand-cut, open-sourced ‘REVEALING’ theme), but also drummed up added hype for newer silhouettes like the Zoom Fly SP and React Hyperdunk 2017. This was all thanks to translucent ‘GHOSTING’ executions.
Now, more than a year after the initial drop, the Off-White x Nike alliance is seemingly as strong as ever. A UNC-inspired AJ1 colourway launched in uber-limited numbers earlier this year, Abloh put his own spin on the Mercurial in honour of the World Cup, and endless leaks have all but confirmed that releases of additional collaborative colourways will fill up the calendar through the rest of 2018. Virgil and the Swoosh even laced Serena Williams up with new kicks and dresses for this year’s US Open.
But all of these releases beg the question: when is too much too much? Is there still sufficient hype for ‘The Ten’ and subsequent Off-White Nike’s, or is the Swoosh in danger of oversaturating the market?
The short answer is that everything appears to be going swimmingly. Off-White drops continue to sell out in a flash each and every time there’s a release, while new black and white colourways of the Presto and Vapormax have ensured that some of 2017’s most sought-after drops have remained relevant well into 2018. The delay of the ,Converse Chuck 70 – whether intentional or not – also had the effect of allowing it to arrive at just the right time and avoid the potential of being overshadowed by the other entries in ‘The Ten.’ Serena’s upcoming ‘Queen’ kicks even break the mould a bit with Volt-coloured zip ties – replacing the usual red – and bold gradients along the midsoles.
Another indicator that the hype is still strong: resell value. When follow-ups to coveted releases usually hit the market, the release often coincides with a drop in the value of the OGs. Not so for Off-White x Nike, though. A quick peek at a reseller like Stadium Goods shows that the original Off-White Presto still goes for around $2,200 USD in some sizes. And the Virgil-tweaked Air Jordan 1? As much as a cool $4,950 USD.
Detractors will look at the resell values in another way, however. Sure, the OG Off-White Presto may command a pretty penny, but the shoe’s white and black 2018 successors? They can be had for as little as $630 and $745 USD, respectively. So while the OGs are still highly sought after, the newer colourways — though still expensive — can be had for a whole lot less than those from 2017.
This would ultimately suggest that there’s far less aftermarket hype for Off-White x Nike drops these days and Abloh and the Swoosh may not be able to sustain the need for their colabs much longer. While some may look at new colourways as welcome additions to the stable, they’re little more than a rehash, only offering up slight variations of what’s been available previously — a problem that, frankly, plagues just about any popular shoe and its subsequent follow-ups (just ask the Roshe). Are new colour combos and details like midsole gradients and Volt zip ties enough to maintain the hype in the long-term?
I say no. Trying to maintain hype is ultimately the first step in killing it altogether. If Nike wants its Off-White drops to buoy up the buzz of the OG ‘The Ten’ offering — many of which are instant classics — the Swoosh need look no further than those original creations. What made ‘The Ten’ so unique in the first place were those ‘REVEALING’ and ‘GHOSTING’ themes of reconstruction/deconstruction. Instead of just bringing new colourways into the fold, why not apply that design language to other Nike kicks, old and new? Who wouldn’t want to see Abloh try his hand at overhauling some of the more underrated entries in the Air Max lineup, or take on a signature basketball silhouette? Maybe he could even help the Greek Freak with his upcoming shoe. I for one would want to be first in line for an Antetokounmpo x Abloh x Nike performance colab for the hardwood.
Nike has, naturally, already taken cues from those initial Off-White colabs for a number of recent in-house releases of its own. Abloh may not have had a hand in designing the React Element 87 or the latest Kobe A.D. entry, but his fingerprints are all over them. John Elliott even co-opted some of ‘The Ten’s’ design principles for his LeBron 8 rework, the LeBron Icon. And in the end, maybe that’s the point: Nike doesn’t need Virgil to keep churning out sneakers with ‘REVEALING’- and ‘GHOSTING’-like qualities. The React Element 87 and LeBron Icon — both of which have flown off shelves — even prove Nike doesn’t need Abloh to keep the hype alive for those design cues.
Here’s to hoping Virgil and the folks in Beaverton have something up their sleeves — say, a new version of ‘The Ten’ with new silhouettes or even a full-on Louis Vuitton collaboration. If not, fans of the translucent and reconstructed looks can easily move on to other options in the months ahead.