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Louis Vuitton's first skate shoe

Designed with Lucien Clarke, who unveiled it yesterday on Instagram

Louis Vuitton's first skate shoe Designed with Lucien Clarke, who unveiled it yesterday on Instagram

Yesterday Lucien Clarke showed off on Instagram the first skate shoe designed by Louis Vuitton in its 166-year history.

The sneaker, which does not have an official name yet, was created by Clarke himself and Virgil Abloh and was accompanied by a campaign published on Thrasher Magazine, the bible of skate culture. This is not the first time that skaters and Abloh have collaborated: Clarke had already been the face of Louis Vuitton's lookbook for the Staples Edition collection in May 2019 and had also been one of the models of the first Abloh show for Louis Vuitton in 2018. The release of the sneaker (which is supposed to be imminent) and the promotional campaign could bridge the gap between the world of professional skateboarding and that of luxury fashion – a related novelty if you consider that the connection between skaters and fashion had occurred almost only within the framework of high streetwear brands such as Palace and Supreme. 

Beyond the aesthetic quality of the sneaker itself, which has a suede mix upper and black and orange mesh, with a translucent sole, Clarke's name written on the side and Louis Vuitton branding on the tongue, it's the potential cultural relevance that this collaboration with a heritage brand French and one of the main names in the luxury market could throw on the world of pro skating. A type of athletic field whose protagonists Abloh has always considered icons of street culture, making them also protagonists of its fashion shows. A work that, in terms of intentions, actually wants to broaden the definition of what luxury fashion can be and that gives visibility and dignity to the discipline – except that, while brands like Palace and Supreme were born within the skate culture, the same cannot be said of Louis Vuitton.

Wanting to look at another side of the issue, in fact, the partnership between Louis Vuitton and Clarke seems to be yet another case of one-way cultural assimilation. A phenomenon that occurs when a fashion brand draws inspiration from a culture antithetical to luxury, glamorizing it and transforming it into luxury itself. Once this has happened, the process of assimilation will be one-way in the sense that the culture of origin will not use in practice a product inspired by it but foreign to it and, in essence, it will not come out really enriched, only copied. A case of victimless crime not too uncommon, but that certainly redefines the stature of the entire operation. With its price point and the luxury of the materials used, it is difficult to imagine the skate communities of the world practising kick-flips and ollies with the new sneakers of Louis Vuitton on their feet.