Nike and Off-White‘s The Ten collaboration is widely viewed as a groundbreaking effort. It’s a pairing that’s dominated sneaker culture conversations since it was first announced earlier this year and for the first time in a long time, has made Nike seem relevant again.
What hasn’t been discussed is that The Ten almost didn’t happened. According to several sources who spoke with us off-the-record, Off-White designer Virgil Abloh‘s first major collaboration with a sneaker brand was going to be with Adidas, which had laid out an extended deal said to be worth seven figures. And while details aren’t clear on how negotiations broke down, Kanye West is said to have caught wind of the deal and asked Adidas to shut it down.
Why exactly West didn’t want to share a space with Abloh is unknown. After all, West and Abloh are known to be good friends and Abloh has always credited West for his fashion come up. They’ve worked together creatively since 2003 though in terms of direction West has more occupied more the role of master while Abloh more so has been in a role of service.
If there’s any bad blood as a result of West’s decision there’s no public sign of it though why there would be? Signing with Nike rather than Adidas turned out great for Abloh who gets to room in a space he can call his own. In a hint that all is well in the kingdom, Abloh was recently spotted in a pair of West’s Yeezy Wave Runner 700 sneaker.
While Nike announced The Ten project in August 2017, neither the brand nor Abloh has said when they first joined forces. Interestingly, Nike was originally going to do the collaboration with Fragment designer Hiroshi Fujiwara, but the deal fell through. “I was supposed to do 10, but he won the game, I lost it,” said Fujiwara in an interview with WWD. “But the things he made were beautiful.”
In looking back on choices made, there are on occasion those pivotal decisions that lead to clear changes in the trajectory of one’s life. In the case of Nike, letting West get away was one of those decisions. More so than the loss of product sales was West’s decision to defect to Adidas where he provided a rocket boost of energy just when it needed it the most in the U.S. market.
Second acts are rare, but Nike got one with Abloh, whose The Ten collaboration has injected new energy into the brand and helped it regain some of the ground it’s lost over the last two years to Adidas.
Wouldn’t it be quite the plot twist if two years from now all is reversed and Adidas finds itself looking back with regret at the one it let get away.