Track + Field
After the much-publicised end of ‘the 10’ which saw Virgil Abloh close the book on his first Nike footwear collaboration, coincided with his employment as Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton it became increasingly difficult to predict when, if ever, Abloh would be making another foray into the footwear world with Nike. Even if you were positive he’d be coming back into the fray in the near to mid-term future, I would challenge anyone to accurately predict exactly in what form that would be. Of course, we all had our suspicions, following last year’s SS19 showcase from Off-White during Paris Fashion Week which included an athletics inspires collection entitled ‘Track + Field.’ An indicator of Abloh’s direction for sure, but as everyone who pays even a casual interest in the scene would be aware, the ideas presented forward on a catwalk don’t always translate directly into a streetwear collection, so naturally, I might have harboured some reservations following the show.
The concept was clear, and the inspiration was overtly apparent for Abloh’s thinking, however, considering we had already seen Serena Williams storm the 2018 US Open head to toe in custom Off-White apparel, it was evident it was an idea that already had some weight behind it. Virgil Abloh’s fascination with athleticism in fashion is something that underpins the whole ‘Track + Field’ collection, with the idea of functionality always existing as a preposition in his work. This is somewhat apparent in his earlier work on his ‘The 10’ Collection in partnership with Nike which essentially took pre-existing and established silhouettes from the Nike archive and deconstructed them, breaking them into the raw elements before reassembling them, speaking to his roots as an engineer, and enhancing the importance of each details function. This ethos is all the more literally expanded upon with Virgil’s runway show that invited not just models but successful athletes as well to model his pieces. With the likes of Hong Kong high jumper Cecilia Yeung, British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, American high jumper Vashti Cunningham featuring alongside familiar faces like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner to further blur the lines between fashion and function.
Athlete in Progress
When the announcement was made that Virgil Abloh would indeed be funnelling his abstract, somewhat raw concepts from the ‘Track + Field’ portion of his SS19 showcase into something that more confidently resembles streetwear, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. The name of the project is reported as being ‘Athlete in Progress’ and looks set to consist of a whole host of new products, including both apparel and footwear, and looks to salute the unbreakable confidence held by a runner by taping into the rich heritage Nike has in track and field. After all, Abloh has already picked up some pretty helpful habits, drawing from some of Nike’s lineage of the past, and looks to further explore the brands’ many-faceted portfolios with, of course, the type of spin that only Off-White can provide. When asked about the upcoming collection Virgil said “I started talking with Nike about this women’s running project last summer and at the time, I was very much inspired by the aesthetic and style of track and field athletes. As a result, I invited some of Nike’s elite track and field champions to participate in my SS19 Off-White runway show as the natural forerunner to developing and showcasing the collection,” and with the welcome addition of 800-meter champion Caster Semenya as the poster girl for the collection Virgil is sending a powerful message with this one.
Off-White x Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 5
The collection looks to include limited releases of a run top and tights as well as two new Off-White shoes. The first of which the Off-White x Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 5 looks set to arrive in three colourways, one of which (the black and pink variation) was teased during the Coachella festivities, making an impromptu appearance on the feet of designer Virgil Abloh. The other colourways have been revealed to have base white and base green uppers respectively and are all heavily reworked versions of the original Zoom Terra Kiger 5 running silhouette. More specifically this model is defined by a mix of technical and trail style laces with a Zoom sole unit complete with perhaps its most striking feature, running spikes underfoot. The technical element of the collaboration continues on the upper in the form of functional lace loops and eyelets embedded directly into the mixture of high-density mesh and suede overlays. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Off-White without a zip tie this time arriving in dark green, as well as the signature orange tabs, which are applied to the design’s swoosh. What you have to be acutely aware of before you even feast your eyes on this design is that it isn’t going to be as universally heralded as ‘The 10’ Collection. That by no means is me saying it is any worse, but where Virgil’s first Nike range was almost destined to succeed, ‘Athlete in Progress’ is much more divisive in nature. The themes he looks to explore are a niche in comparison to his previous work with Nike and instead look to be trying to merge the worlds of performance wear and fashion in a way that hasn’t previously been achieved.
Off-White x Nike Waffle Racer
The second announced silhouette to brace the collection is an Off-White x Nike Waffle Racer, perhaps following the example set by the recently released Sacai x LDV Waffle that attempted to revive the Nike Waffle Racer silhouette. Virgil Abloh’s version comes just like his Zoom Terra Kiger 5, in three colourways; a base white, base green, and a base black option, while similarly donning a similar spiked design and deconstructed look. Again, in both cases these shoes aren’t for everyone, and definitely wouldn’t be shoes I’d wear recreationally. Make no mistake about it, these pairs are performance designed, and spliced with the type of premium Off-White style that has never been achieved in track and field apparel before. I personally believe in Virgil Abloh’s partnership with Nike we really have found a perfect storm, with a back catalogue as extensive as Nike’s I was foolish to ever for a second doubt that Virgil Abloh would be coming back for more. As, after all, when it comes to reworking designs, no one, and I mean no one, is better than Virgil.