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Louis Vuitton honors Virgil Abloh with a Nike Air Force 1 exhibition

As announced earlier this week, Louis Vuitton is honoring its late artistic director Virgil Abloh through an exhibit of his work. The space, known officially as Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” by Virgil Abloh, focuses on its namesake by showcasing all 47 editions of the Air Force 1 imagined by Abloh. Creative conversations between the designer and Nike are also displayed among the final products of their collaboration.

Held at the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse in Brooklyn, the exhibition will be open to the public from May 21 through May 31. As playfulness defined much of Abloh’s work, both physical and virtual aspects are highlighted throughout the space, including holographic displays, a treehouse, and 3D-printed statues akin to the ones Abloh built during his tenure at Louis Vuitton.

Why the AF1? —

While leading Louis Vuitton’s men’s offerings from 2018 to 2021, Virgil consistently challenged the fashion industry to employ style as a tool for change. His designs often included bootleg or streetwear influence — references previously shunned (or appropriated) by major fashion houses — and celebrated the historical influence of Black subcultures on mainstream fashion. As LV writes in a press release, Abloh’s work was, “above all, about humanity and unity.”

The designer’s extensive partnership with Nike reflects this belief: Abloh chose to work on the Air Force 1 because of its history in hip-hop, most notably referencing an AF1 adorned with a version of Louis Vuitton’s monogram. Custom made by Dapper Dan, the kicks were worn on the cover of DJ E-Z Rock's 1988 album It Takes Two and nod to Abloh’s love of bootleg culture, making it no surprise they would serve as inspiration to the designer.

The majority of the sneakers on display at the LV exhibition were initially previewed during the label’s Spring/Summer 2022 runway show, but there are a handful (footful?) of previously unseen pairs here. A purple and gold Air Force 1, reminiscent of the Los Angeles Lakers, can be seen alongside a tie-dye pair, a paisley pair, and another covered in fur. The sneakers are all exhibited in motion on magnetized walls as holographic displays animate the sneakers with cues to breakdancing.

As confirmed by Louis Vuitton, nine versions of the displayed Air Force 1 sneakers will be available for purchase later this year, with members of LV’s community being offered the first pick via preorder. Pricing ranges from ~$2,100 to ~$2,600, although those that wish to see the showcased Air Force 1s and not wear them can do so for free.

What’s inside —

When guests enter Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” by Virgil Abloh, they’ll be greeted by a giant version of Louis Vuitton’s logo reflected in a mirrored ceiling. 3D-printed statues, like those previously seen at Abloh’s shows, surround the exhibition as walls come painted with clouds. Their childlike energy is matched by a large treehouse, which guests can explore to see a replica of Abloh’s studio in Paris.

To further honor the designer, a number of corresponding art installations will be placed throughout New York City during the run of the exhibition. Large glass boxes, displaying graphic globe sculptures tied to the themes of the showcase, can be experienced at Domino Park, Grand Central, South Street Seaport, Astor Place, Columbus Circle, Flatiron Plaza, and Gansevoort Plaza, with a goal to “unify” the city. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that Abloh will be sorely missed.

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