Virgil Abloh on the Birth of His 'The Ten' Collection With Nike

The Spring 2019 cover story of 'GQ Style' discusses the history of Virgil Abloh including the start of his massively popular 'The Ten' collection with Nike.

Virgil Abloh

Image via Getty/Edward Berthelot

Virgil Abloh

Virgil Abloh is arguably the most recognizable face in the world of fashion today. His label Off-White remains a popular option bridging the gap between streetwear and high fashion, he recently released his first (and debuted his second) collection as the men's artistic director at Louis Vuitton, and his sneaker collaborations with Nike are some of the most coveted pairs around. For the Spring 2019 issue of GQ Style, 39 members of Abloh's star-studded circle including Don C, ASAP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Takashi Murakami gave their thoughts on the evolution of the 38-year old designer.

Many people have come to know Abloh through his recent work with Nike. "The Ten" immediately made an impact when it first arrived in late 2017 and has remained a talking point with each subsequent addition to the collection that has followed. As the piece reveals, Abloh's love for Nike extends back to his childhood. 

"My friend Chris Eaton and I used to be so obsessed with Jordan that we were drawing Nike shoes and sending them to Nike. And Nike would be like, 'Oh, we don't accept designs,'" said Abloh. 

The piece also gives some insight on how "The Ten" came about in the first place. "As a full-time employee for Kanye, I was working on Yeezy for Nike, and then Kanye went to Adidas, so I was in a no-man's-land where no brand would contact me to do a shoe, and I was fine with that," said Abloh. "Then one season I did this slight edit of an Umbro shoe, and I put that on the runway. Fraser Cooke from Nike and [my friend] Arthur [Kar] were sitting next to each other at my show, and Fraser saw these Umbros and he was like, 'What the fuck?' And Arthur was like, 'No one has ever called him to do a shoe.' That was when Fraser first began the dialogue." 

Nike senior director Fraser Cooke's version of the story seems to be slightly different. He says Nike CEO Mark Parker actually had the idea to create a collection of re-imagined silhouettes. "The Ten actually came up from the Nike side and was instigated by our CEO, Mark Parker. We knew we wanted to re-interpret and re-imagine iconic silhouettes from across Nike, Jordan, and also Converse. [Virgil] and the footwear-design team went into a design area for a couple days and thrashed through each one of those silhouettes," said Cooke.

Make sure to check out the entire piece for insight on the rest of Abloh's journey here