In 2017, when Virgil Abloh launched The Ten – a reinterpretation of ten iconic Nike trainer styles, from the Nike ‘Air Force 1 Low’ to the ‘Air VaporMax’, the Nike SNKRS app promptly crashed due to unprecedented online traffic. Abloh’s trainer designs – accented with elements of his idiosyncratic design lexicon, such as collage, ironic typography, asterisks, and industrial and utilitarian embellishments – have become cult collector’s items for sneakerheads and graphic design buffs alike, now more so than ever in the wake of the creative polymath’s passing in November 2021

The most valuable charitable sale at Sotheby’s in nearly a decade

Louis Vuitton Nike Virgil Abloh

Abloh unveiled a collaboration with Nike and Louis Vuitton as part of the Parisian maison’s S/S 2022 show – an ‘Air Force 1’ silhouette accented with the two brands’ design signatures – and in January, Sotheby’s announced an auction of 200 pairs of the sneakers in limited-edition colourways. Bidding on the shoes, which were available in a selection of sizes, fetched $25.3 million, more than eight times the auction’s overall $3 million high estimate, with proceeds going to the The Virgil Abloh™ “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund.

The calf-leather designs – which celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1982-designed ‘Air Force 1’ – were emblazoned with Louis Vuitton’s Monogram and Damier prints in rich brown hues. The style also celebrated Abloh’s affection for quotation marks, featuring the word ‘Air’ on its sole. Each pair of the sneakers was be sold with a Louis Vuitton pilot case, a reinterpreted archival design that was also showcased, in hazard orange, at the brand’s S/S 2022 show; the case features Louis Vuitton’s classic S lock closure in white metal finishing and includes a luggage tag in the shape of the Nike Swoosh. 

The most valuable charitable sale at Sotheby’s in nearly a decade, collectors from Asia comprised 40% of the buyers, but bidding was amalgamated across fifty countries. This was an auction that attracted a younger clientele, with more than two-thirds of all bidders under 40, and more than half of all buyers under 40. A significant majority of bidders and buyers participated in a Sotheby’s sale for the first time, with more than 75% of buyers new to the auction house. Collectors competed for rare sizes: Lot 1, Size 5 led the auction, achieving $352,800, Size 9 achieved the highest total value by size, totaling $3.4 million across 26 lots and the most competition was for Size 8, with a total of more than 1,400 bids. 

‘We are thrilled that the record-breaking fundraising auction for Virgil Abloh’s Post Modern Scholarship Fund has generated such exceptional results. We are proud that thousands of students will be able to benefit from the proceeds, allowing us to continue to uphold Virgil’s mission to inspire and support future generations,’ said Michael Burke, Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton of the record-breaking charity sale. §