In 2016, sportswear manufacturer Nike and fashion designer Virgil Abloh joined forces to create a sneaker collection celebrating 10 of the Oregon-based company’s most iconic shoes. Their project, The Ten―which reimagined icons like Air Jordan 1, Air Max 90, Air Force 1, and Air Presto, reinvigorated sneaker culture.
Virgil Abloh’s designs offer deep insights into engineering ingenuity and burst with cultural cachet. Drawing on the genius of the original shoe using lettering, ironic labels, collage, and sculpting techniques, Abloh played with language and sculptural elements to construct new meaning. Inspired by the wit of Dadaism, architectural theory, and avant-garde happenings, he analyzed what makes each shoe iconic. He deconstructed it into an artistic assemblage, making each shoe into a piece of industrial design, a readymade sculpture, and wearable all at once.
ICONS traces Abloh’s investigative, creative process through documentation of the prototypes, original text messages from Abloh to Nike designers, and treasures from the Nike archives. We find Swooshes sliced away from Air Jordans and reapplied with tape or thread, Abloh’s typical text fragments in quotation marks on Air Force 1, and All Stars cut into pieces. We take a look behind the scenes and witness Abloh’s DIY approach, which gave each model in the Off-WhiteTM c/o Nike collection its unique touch. His deconstructive vocabulary is reflected in the Swiss binding, which showcases an open spine and discloses the book’s production.
Nike and Abloh partnered with the acclaimed London-based design studio Zak Group. Together they conceived a two-part compendium, equal parts catalogue and conceptual toolbox. The first part of the book presents a visual culture of sneakers, while a lexicon in the second part defines the key people, places, objects, ideas, materials, and scenes from which the project grew. The book documents Abloh’s cooperative way of working and reaffirms the power of print. Texts by Nike’s Nicholas Schonberger, writer Troy Patterson, curator and historian Glenn Adamson, and Virgil Abloh himself frame the collaborative work within fashion and design history. A foreword by Hiroshi Fujiwara places the project within the historical continuum of Nike collaborators.