A new book is documenting Virgil Abloh’s partnership with Nike

Published by Taschen, Icons charts the designer’s collaboration with the sportswear giant and the sneaker culture from which it emerged

Cover of Icons book on Virgil Abloh
All images by Prudence Cuming, courtesy Zak Group

Beginning in 2017 under the banner of his cult fashion label Off-White, Virgil Abloh collaborated with Nike on a reimagined footwear collection involving ten of its signature silhouettes. Abloh deconstructed, rearranged and reapplied elements of each design, and introduced details that have become closely associated with Abloh and by extension Off-White – most recognisably the foregrounding of type, often wrapped in quotation marks.

A coming together of two brand behemoths, the initial range – known as The Ten – predictably sold out in next to no time, spawning follow ups over the next few years.

Icons, a new book published by Taschen, is taking a closer look at the project, with the altered Swoosh on the cover setting a precedent for what’s inside (Abloh was no stranger to tinkering with the logo during the project). The book aims to give a holistic overview of the collaboration, including prototypes and messages shared back and forth, contextualised by the history, evolution and key players of sneaker culture – from the objects and materials to the people and their ideas.

The book pays special attention to Abloh’s process-driven and DIY approach to the project, right down to the layout design by Zak Group, which takes cues from the “DIY industrial aesthetic of The Ten”. While Abloh is known for sharing insight into his creative process on social media, the designer promised that the book contains a wealth of imagery that hasn’t made it onto the internet.

Design of Nike Off-White book
Nike Off-White book

“The foundation of my practice isn’t nearly the end result — it’s [rigour] and process of the logic. The archive is the paper trail of those artifacts,” Abloh said. “The Icons book is, in a way, the only revealing lens to understand that the catalogue of the 50-plus Nike shoes I have designed are in my mind ‘one shoe’. One story.”

Abloh, who is also menswear artistic director at Louis Vuitton as well as a DJ and trained architect, has become known for his cross-referential practice – at times earning him scepticism from the industry, but forming the appropriate foundations of a project of this nature. Whether people are indifferent to, in awe of, or in pursuit of Abloh’s brand of fashion design (or indeed the culture surrounding trainers), the iconography that he’s built up is undeniable – for some, second only to Nike.

Icons is published by Taschen, and is available from selected retailers from January 22 and globally from February 5. Head here for a range of Black-owned and indie bookstores stocking the book; taschen.com