Louis Vuitton — yes, that Louis Vuitton — has created a pro skate shoe

Louis Vuitton, the jewel in the crown of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury group, is venturing into new territory. The company, founded as a trunk maker in 1854 and known today for its high-end handbags, has created a pro model skateboarding sneaker.

Virgil Abloh, creative director of Louis Vuitton men’s, revealed on Instagram yesterday that Louis Vuitton had signed “the first skater deal of this type” with professional skateboarder Lucien Clarke of Jamaica, allowing Clarke to design his own pro skateboarding shoe. The first ad featuring the tie-up will appear not in an upcoming issue of a major fashion magazine, but in skate bible Thrasher, according to Abloh. Clarke also posted shots of the ad and the shoe on Instagram.

The deal, while unusual, may not be as surprising as it initially seems. Abloh’s greatest value to Louis Vuitton lies in his ability to create excitement around the brand and help it appeal to a younger, more diverse audience — a growing priority for luxury companies. Skate culture offers one way to do just that.

Skateboarding has been a favorite subculture for fashion to appropriate from. For a time, Thrasher logo t-shirts were practically a staple for off-duty models. Before Abloh took over, Louis Vuitton even linked up with Supreme, a skate brand that was at the forefront of streetwear’s takeover of fashion, in 2017 for a collection under former men’s creative director Kim Jones.

The hype around skate culture has only continued, especially when it comes to sneakers. This year has seen a strong resurgence of the Nike Dunk SB, for example, a style skaters adopted and popularized after its initial introduction as a basketball shoe in 1985. Abloh, meanwhile, has long acknowledged skate culture as an influence and used skate shoes as a template for his footwear designs. He’s an inveterate collaborator, too, most recently partnering with Nigo, founder of Japanese streetwear pioneer A Bathing Ape, on a small Louis Vuitton men’s collection.

The new sneaker and the deal with Clarke bring all these threads together. Details on the shoe’s release, including price, have not yet been revealed. We reached out to representatives of Louis Vuitton for more information.

Even if the shoes don’t sell in giant quantities, they offer the brand a way to add some new edge to its marketing while it continues to make the bulk of its money from products such as classic handbags and fragrances.

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