Sotheby's sale of 200 pairs of Virgil Abloh shoes fetches $25 million

The sum exceeds the initial estimate of between $5,000 and $15,000 a pair

Virgil Abloh originally created the special-edition trainers with Nike for Louis Vuitton's spring/summer 2022 men's collection, for which he was artistic director.  Reuters
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Sotheby's announced on Wednesday that an auction of 200 pairs of the Louis Vuitton and Nike Air Force 1 trainers created by late US designer Virgil Abloh had fetched a total of $25 million.

A spokesman for the auction house told AFP that the highest amount paid for one pair was more than $350,000 during the online sale that ran from January 26 to February 8.

The sums greatly exceed the initial estimates made by Sotheby's, which had started the bidding at $2,000 a pair and had predicted they would sell for between $5,000 and $15,000.

In the end, the trainers, which ranged in size from US five to 18, averaged more than $100,000 per shoe. The cheapest sold for just over $75,000.

A pair of Louis Vuitton Nike Air Force 1 trainers displayed at Sotheby's in New York. AFP

The special-edition trainers, made of calf leather, were originally created for Louis Vuitton's spring/summer 2022 men's collection for which Abloh was artistic director.

Abloh, a multitalented DJ, architect and designer died in November at the age of 41 after a private battle with cancer.

A close associate of Kanye West, Abloh was the first black American to be named creative director of a top French fashion house and brought streetwear and a less elitist approach to the world of luxury.

The brown, white and cream-coloured trainers boast Nike's famous swoosh logo, plus Louis Vuitton's recognisable monogram and damier motifs.

More than 1,200 potential buyers from more than 50 countries participated in the auction - more than half of the buyers were under the age of 40 and collectors in Asia represented 40 per cent of final buyers

They were created to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Nike Air Force 1, which was designed in 1982.

The sale in numbers

The auction, held exclusively online, began only six days after the presentation of Abloh's last Vuitton collection in Paris, in front of an emotional audience that included stars Rihanna, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams.

"From the moment our auction launched, the energy has been electric," said Brahm Wachter, Sotheby's head of streetwear and modern collectables. He said the event "broke the record for the most bids in the opening day of any online sale."

The market for rare sports shoes is soaring, with trainers having transformed into major collector's items that have recently been snatched up for tens of thousands of dollars.

In search of a facelift and new clientele, big names in luxury such as Dior and LVMH have partnered with sports and streetwear brands to create athletic footwear.

According to Sotheby's, more than 1,200 potential buyers from more than 50 countries participated in the auction. More than half of those who successfully purchased a pair of shoes were under the age of 40 and collectors in Asia represented 40 per cent of final buyers.

In the history of trainers sales, however, the most expensive pairs have been worn by sports and hip-hop legends.

Last April, a pair of Nike Air Yeezy 1s worn by Kanye West sold for $1.8 million at Sotheby's. In October, a pair of trainers worn by NBA superstar Michael Jordan early in his career sold for nearly $1.5 million.

Proceeds from the Abloh shoe auction will benefit a scholarship fund he set up to support aspiring designers of black, African-American or African descent.

Updated: February 10, 2022, 6:26 AM