One of the biggest sneaker design collaborations of the last year has been Nike’s partnership with Virgil Abloh— founder of fashion label Off-White and new men’s artistic director of Louis Vuitton. Known as “The Ten,” the project gave Abloh license to reconstruct 10 of Nike’s most-recognized shoes, including the Air Jordan 1, the Air Force 1, the Air Max 90, and more.
It was an unusual move. Nike has a reputation for being protective of its iconic sneakers, including the swoosh logo. But Abloh was able to use his imagination—and an X-acto knife—to take apart and rework the shoes as he liked, producing sneakers that had their own new identity while remaining true to their source material. Among sneaker fans, the project has been a huge success: People have lined up for hours outside stores to get their hands on the shoes.
Now Nike has released a “textbook” online—you can download it here (pdf)—documenting how the collaboration developed behind the scenes. Nike calls it “an encyclopedia of images and text surrounding the project.” It includes background stories of the original sneaker styles, written by much-loved sneaker journalist Gary Warnett, who died last year, as well as commentary from Andy Caine, Nike’s VP of footwear design, and Abloh himself.
“There are a few things I wanted to highlight in terms of the design ethos of the shoes. One practice is reduction and removal. Celebrating the iconography of the shoe without damaging its aesthetic,” Abloh says in the book. Deconstruction was a favorite technique, leaving the raw materials visible to give the shoe a new feel even to people who are quite familiar with it, as in Abloh’s lauded version of the Air Jordan 1. ”What you’re seeing is actually the foam that’s underneath every pair of Jordans you’ve had since you were a kid,” he explains.
The book itself works in a similar way. It offers a peak beneath the hype at what went into creating the shoes, including the trial and error of design, and how Abloh played off the long-held emotional connections people feel toward their sneakers to create his own new takes.