25.3 million dollars: that’s the record-breaking amount fetched with the sale of a complete collection of sneakers created by the late designer Virgil Abloh with Nike. On Wednesday, February 9th, 200 pieces of the same model made of calf leather – fusing the trainer’s classic codes with the House monogram orange leather pilot cases – were sold online to different collectors through Sotheby’s New York auction house. The caritative event was primarily organized by Virgil Abloh before his tragic death and aimed at displaying his new collaboration with Nike. From 2016 to 2021, the American fashion designer kept collaborating with the famous sportwear label, both as Louis Vuitton’s menswear artistic director and as the founder of his label Off-White. His rereading of Nike’s iconic sneakers, such as the “Air Force 1”, “Air Jordan” or “Air Vapor Max”, is aligned with the streetwear fashion the designer claimed for over a decade.
The multi-talented creator, designer, and DJ, passed away in November 2021 at the age of 41 and left a substantial legacy to the fashion and art worlds. As an integral part of his artistic production, relentlessly diversified with Off-White, then with Louis Vuitton menswear, pairs of sneakers allowed him to rapidly take a predominant place among Millennials and Gen Z investors. Today, the creative genius fuels auction sales and attracts sneakers addicts from all around the world. In January 2022, Virgil Abloh deciphered this new enthusiasm in Artnet : “This generation may value sneakers more than a Matisse because [the Matisse] is not attainable”. With this last sale, Sotheby’s indeed reached out to a younger audience. More than a third of bidders, all country included, were less than 40 years old. Following the designer’s wishes, proceeds from the sale will benefit The Virgil AblohTM “Post Modern” scholarship fund, an organization he founded in July 2020 to support and mentor promising fashion students of Black and African descent.
Sneakers weren’t as popular as today in auction sales. A fever that drives the art market crazy, as Sotheby’s head of streetwear and modern collectibles Brahm Wachter explains it: “We broke a record for the largest number of online auctions’ offers within the first day only. Sneakers collectors from all around the world are searching for la crème de la crème, and it hasn’t been more obvious than with a special sale to honor Virgil Abloh”. From Christie’s to Sotheby’s and Phillips, the greatest auction houses keep developing this market to please an increasing number of collectors. Last October, famous basket player Michael Jordan’s 1984 Nike “Air Ships” were sold for $1.5 million at Christie’s. A few months prior to that at Sotheby’s, a collector gifted himself Kanye West’s “Grammy Worn” Nike “Air Yeezy 1” for $1.8 million. In the wake of the sale of 200 identical designs of Nike and Louis Vuitton “Air Force 1”, 47 other variations of the trailer will be exhibited in the French fashion house’s shops. The dates of that exhibition are unknown yet. In the hope of a new auction dedicated to Virgil Abloh’s creations, the clothes, accessories, pieces of art and designs imagined by this visionary man will be the core of a posthumous exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum starting on July 1st.