Born in Rockford, Illinois U.S.A. in 1980 – Virgil Abloh is an artist, architect, and fashion designer. After earning a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he completed a Master’s degree in Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
It was here at Illinois Institute of Technology, where he was introduced to their curriculum that was built from the notions of Bauhaus, which was originally established by Mies van der Rohe, that he learned how to converge the fields of arts, craft, and design.
Those notions merged with contemporary culture make up his inter-disciplinary practice today; stemming from his last 15 years, which is summarized below.
The Ten: Nike Air Max 90
The Ten: Nike Air Max 97
The Ten: Nike Air Force 1 Low
The Ten: Nike Air VaporMax
The Ten: Nike Air Presto
The Ten: Nike React Hyperdunk
The Ten: Nike Zoom Vaporfly
The Ten: Nike Blazer
The Ten: Air Jordan 1
The Ten: Converse Chuck Taylor
Air Jordan 1
Legacy. Grail. Flight.
The Air Jordan series has been a no-compromise, shape-shifting dynasty since day one. Created at rapid speed to prepare for the 1985/86 season, the first chapter of this now iconic shoe was a blockbuster: cut high for support, flexible where it mattered, Nike Air cushioned, and available in an array of makeups and colorways, the Air Jordan 1 shattered the conservative palette of hoops shoes of the era.
But the shock absorbent technology, padded collar and hard-wearing leather also made ideal for another kind of airtime: skateboarding. In that space, the shoe inspired a wave of hi-tops for street and vert use. After the shoe was re-released to commemorate Michael Jordan’s first retirement in the mid 1990s, a new fan base helped the Air Jordan 1 take flight again.
Nike Air Presto
Released in 2000, this shoe led a new creative vanguard.
Following reductionist principles, the Nike Air Presto’s lead designer, Tobie Hatfield, carved out a section of the collar to relieve tension, freeing the foot, and employed a brand new seamless stretch mesh along with minimal but effective cage elements. This led not only to a whole new build for a running shoe, but also a fresh perspective on sizing, xs – xxl, just like a T-shirt.
An unforgettable use of color and regional makeups—including special editions created as part of the co.jp, Japan-only release program—helped the shoe gain a cult following in the age of Internet culture and streetwear’s new wave.
Nike Air Max 90
More. Elevation. Music.
Visible air tech technology become a phenomenon in 1987. By the time the Nike Air Max 90 came along, veteran innovator and Nike designer Tinker Hatfield (the man responsible for the phenomenon) was aiming to push the idea further. He focused on making it more: more Nike Air cushioning through a bigger Air unit; more flexibility through forefoot grooves; more room for color through textured panels on the upper; more fit options through multi-port lace holes, and; more color options than the running world had previously ever seen, including bold Infrareds and laser-like blues that popped on the streets like nothing before. Don’t mistake all this more for excess, though. This shoe weighed less than its predecessors.
On the East Coast, the Air Max 90 perfectly captured a stylistic moment in time, while in its leather form, the shoe became synonymous with the militancy of West Coast rap. In Europe, the silhouette resonated with rude boys, rude girls and ravers.
When the Air Max 90 made a grand return in the early 2000s, it became standard issue across several more subcultures, certifying its iconic status.
Nike Air Force 1
Expression. Competition. Culture-defining.
The first Nike Air basketball shoe, the Air Force 1 became a cultural force the tried and true way: by word of mouth.
Debuting in 1982 as a hi-top and followed by a low-cut edition shortly afterward, the Air Force 1 was the product of years of hard work for designer Bruce Kilgore and his team at Nike. It introduced a new air unit created for the court and tactically placed concentric circles on the outsole, effectively redefining basketball performance. Then, when it almost left the market entirely, a handful of retailers in Baltimore argued for the silhouettes survival. In doing so, they cemented an icon. Initial bragging rights came from making customs, sometimes with luxury fabrics, proving the shoe’s capacity as an open source experiment in expression. Thousands of official and unofficial colorways later, the Air Force 1 remains an all-time great.
Nike Air VaporMax
Air. Phenom. Future.
Since the Nike Air Max debuted 30 years ago, its upgrades have strived to create the definitive symbiosis between the upper and it’s famed see-through Air sole. Removing the barrier between the two has been a long time coming and with the new molded sole unit eliminating the midsole completely, the Air VaporMax lets the wearer feel and flex like never before. An instant phenomenon, it embodies a cultural crossroad between high fashion, progressive technology, emphasis on exercise, and the baseline need for wearable comfort.
In the contemporary milieu, style needs to perform rather than offer passive aesthetics. The Nike Air VaporMax hits all the high notes, it’s as clean on a Sunday jog as it is under the lights of a Paris runway.
Energy. Impact. Innovation.
The Nike Hyperdunk series was built on the next generation of greatness.
In summer 2008, the original iteration introduced Flywire and Lunar cushioning, drawing from the past and the future, to land a brand new look for basketball.
Initially endorsed by Kobe Bryant, each successive Hyperdunk design has been fronted by a player poised for superstardom—the latest debuted on the feet of defensive stalwart Draymond Green. The Nike React Hyperdunk Flyknit is, like its predecessors, a pure expression of the game. The shoe channels the spirit of classic, progressive performance, and with its clean top-line, is a potential future classic.
Nike Zoom Vaporfly
Speed. Dynamism. Aerodynamics.
The Nike Zoom Vaporfly is part of Nike’s constant crusade to cut finishing times. Its bold aesthetic, drafted from the Breaking2 bid to crack a two-hour marathon barrier, comes from an arresting heel to toe shape, offset with a near seamless upper.
The minimalist make-up carries a unique sense of transparency that evokes past experiments in speed, like 2003’s featherweight Mayfly design.
State-of-the-art, and speed-oriented, the Zoom Vaporfly’s lifestyle adoption is the latest example of Nike’s capacity to turn performance innovation into an everyday icon.
Converse Chuck Taylor
Original. Defiant. The signature.
When the Converse All Star debuted 100 years ago, the blueprint of athletic performance footwear (written in canvas and rubber) was set. This was innovation: early 20th century style. Defying age or gender, the shoe’s appeal exploded in the 1970’s and 1980’s when new, bold colors and patterns were introduced. Since then, the All Star has represented both team uniformity and a rebel attitude; the shoe of choice for misfits, cool kids, crews, rivals, enemies, rockers, punks, rappers and skaters.
Timeless. Influential. Authentic.
The Blazer was the original Nike basketball shoe.
Debuting in 1972, the shoe’s design was highlighted by a fat-bellied version of the then unfamiliar Swoosh. Built in either leather or suede, the Blazer’s traction and comfort helped turn the brand into a basketball contender, but it was the aesthetic (spurred by that Swoosh) that made the biggest impact. Bold colors caught the attention of crowds and a new kind of connoisseur at street level. Near-mythical customized editions for high school, college and pro players preempted the world of coveted collaboration, and through Nike retailers on the west coast the Blazer became an unofficial skate favorite with the scene’s new stars.
Over the decades, the shoe’s authenticity was naturally cemented by being included as part of the core Nike SB line and playing a starring role in a new wave of collaborative projects with art world icons.
Nike Air Max 97
Arriving in an era of tech obsession, club culture excess and ostentatious lyricism, the Air Max 97 hit hard. Designed with unparalleled visibility and a sense of speed in mind, the shoe introduced the full-length Air Max unit and, after some initial caution at its otherworldly looks shattered old guard conceits. Its silver launch color, the shoe evoked a distinct vehicular feel, with reflective strips and metallic mesh breathability.
Once it walked the catwalks of Milan, it became a full-fledged fashion phenomenon in Italy, inspiring a new kind of Euro-centric, high-end athleticism. Twenty years later, the shoe still evokes shock and awe, no doubt aided by infallible subculture co-signs.
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