HypePlug in early 2021 was tapped in by Sotheby’s to source and curate a selection of sneakers for their Luxury Week Sale out of Paris. On September 22nd 2021, the auction started with 30 sneakers featured alongside the jewellery and bags typical of luxury week.
Pairs from the HypePlug Closet include the Nike SB Low Bernard Buffet and Nike Air Yeezy II Dual Signed by Kanye West, whilst other notable pairs included the Nike Air Force 1 Playstation, Off-White Air Force 1 Samples, and Nike Dunk High Grammy Samples.
This was the first auction featuring sneakers put on by Sotheby’s FR and broke a record. The previous highest recorded public sale was for a Nike FLOM which sold for 63 000 USD last year. HypePlug’s Paris Dunk was sold for a final price of 82 900 EUR which has absolutely set a new precedent.
Sotheby’s also hosted an exhibition for the lots available at their space at 76 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré 75008.
The rare one-of-one prototype of the Yeezy 1 which Kanye West wore during his 2008 Grammy Performance was one of the first times the world was to see the project being cooked up by West and Mark Smith of Nike. The shoe is, as expected, in a US size 12, and shows signs of wear – imperative to its provenance. This prototype in contrast to the retail pairs features an all black leather exterior, a lasered Swoosh on the overlay, and a dual-coloured, stitch-contrasting Jordan 3 sole – which was borrowed for all of the Yeezy 1 sneakers. The pair also comes with a special box, designed and lasered by Mark Smith – Nike design pioneer and partner of West in the design process.
The pair which will be displayed in Hong Kong is being sold in a private sale, with the Sothebys website and app simply tempting buyers to enquire. The $ 1 million valuation has been published by various media companies and organisations – importantly not by Sotheby’s – is not just an arbitrary valuation or marketing ploy, but shows a massive shift in the perceived value of sneakers – which have mainly been intertwined directly with the art world, or directly with Michael Jordan.
This deadly duo – an objectively engaging documentary with a global mass market appeal, combined with a record breaking sale of associated sneakers, propelled a new wave of vintage and ‘1985’ sneakers. Not only was owning a pair of original Jordans owning a share of a cultural genesis, but also an astute investment. A surge in demand for deadstock OG 1985 Jordan 1’s were at an all time high – elusive pairs like headstock Black Toe’s and certain metallic pairs had commanded astronomical prices. The demand increases for those with a greater niche appeal, such as those which are signed, game worn, or both. Globally it is accepted that these are cultural artefacts, and have inherent cultural value – and subsequently somewhat liquid in the open market.
This brings us to today where Sotheby’s has come forth with a record breaking appraisal for property offered in private sale. This would break the precedent of the most expensive sneaker being directly associated with Michael Jordan, and by extension sports memorabilia. This is a bold statement which is a testament to an expanding demographic of probably younger, international clients who have been more exposed to Kanye West independently and individually. Kanye West is a current actor and player in global affairs with an ongoing career – there is still room for him to reinforce his influence on todays culture, as well as imprinting on the cultures of tomorrow. There are very limited ways in which Michael Jordan is going to be able to dramatically shape the price of original Jordan 1’s; Kanye West still has time to cement his legacy – and his unpredictability adds to this.
Kanye West was one of the first artists to bring athletic wear and music formally together through disruptive collaborations. His Nike collaborations are common grails and both hold weight as some of the best sneakers to be released, but this pair is special in its nature of being one-of-one. It is also verified as being worn by Kanye West during an iconic performance – already drawing some comparisons between this pair and the most recent record breaking sale.
Although no sale has been realised, it has already spurred a conversation, and for the most part that is all that’s really required to move markets. Does this instantly raise prices of the original Yeezy 1 & Yeezy 2’s inherently, with the samples, signed, and worn commanding even higher prices? Does this mean that the signed Michael Jordan sneakers are undervalued and previous sale numbers are actually steals? Sotheby’s are one of a few groups at the forefront of this expansion upwards for sneakers, and it is very likely that they will find a new home at the end of the auction.
In what will go down as perhaps the most controversial release in Jordan brands recent times, the Jordan 1 Retro Trophy Room has been making rounds on social media – for all the wrong reasons. Out of an estimated 12,000 total pairs, including the pairs Jordan brand has distributed to brand partners, hundreds of pairs have already been released and shared across social media bringing up the discussions of backdooring, fakes, and the state of the sneaker landscape.
The pair itself draws its inspiration from the 1985 All-Star Game – telling the story of how Michael Jordan was supposed to be humiliated by his more senior rivals in his first appearance at an all-star match. The Freeze Out as it has become known, has been a hot topic in basketball with various conflicting accounts of what truly happened. The frosty external coating is in reference to this and matches the icy sole. To add to the backstory, there is a printed Michael Jordan signature on the heel of each pair as well as a ticket for each box.
Another important point in regards to the Trophy Room 1’s, is that it is planned to release at Trophy Room – the sneaker store belonging to Marcus Jordan, Michael Jordan’s son. The store Trophy Room describes itself as “an elevated boutique” and “inspired by the trophy room within the Jordan family residence.”
The special Jordan 1 release has been discussed by the sneaker community since late 2020. Marcus Jordan himself responded to talk about the pairs by claiming that Trophy Room themselves had not paid or ordered the Trophy Room Jordan 1’s, and that there was foul play on behalf of Nike’s Memphis distribution centre – the largest of its kind. This response drew criticism from the industry both for the fact that Nike retailers often take stock on credit, and for the fact that it is true that pairs have been released and entered the real market. Some have claimed that the addition of blue laces came extremely late in the production process and as such, many “early pairs” did not come with the additional blue laces.
More importantly however is the discussion this has raised about backdooring entirely. HypePlug’s segmentation of the supply chain starts at the factory where they are manufactures, then to distribution centres owned by Nike and their subsidiaries across the world, the retail stores which sell the products, and then the distribution facilities which receive returned or undelivered orders. Across these four stages, there is profit to be made, and in recent times it has become more and more lucrative to sell these high valued products as an insider to a waiting consumer. The main discussion surrounding this however is not regarding the nature of backdoors but mainly surrounding the huge financial benefits.
What has however been debated in public is whether or not Trophy Room should even be backdooring pairs. The owner is a member of the Jordan family and the fact that his store has been offered multiple signature pairs across various iconic silhouettes does leave a sour taste in the mouth of some, and the fact that the owner and store stood to benefit from cutting out the everyday consumer has become a major talking point. Many have quoted the backdoor price at US$1,000 (nearly 10x suggested retail price) which people have used to extrapolate huge income figures from Trophy Rooms backdoor channel. Obviously the numbers have not been made public, nor has there been an announcement from Marcus Jordan, Trophy Room, Jordan brand, or Nike regarding the release of this sneaker.
A second theory is that the market has been flooded by fakes. Since Q3 2020 there have been replica pairs surfacing on social media and online forums. In a day and age where replica sneakers are manufactured in factories identical too, and often made from the original specifications based from authentic Nike products, it is becoming increasingly challenging to ensure that fake sneakers do not enter the sneaker market as authentic. In addition, this release was of course limited and all pairs are numbered which have come from the Nike factory. Despite this there have been some big giveaways such as the use of a UV light to expose stitching lines on templates as shown below. Below are two fake pairs. Many consumers also anticipate there being an announcement made by Marcus Jordan or Trophy Room exposing an intricacy of the real pairs which are not featured on the early replicas.
In a similar way to the Diors, time will help expose the pairs which are inauthentic as matching numbers start to arise, however we will still need to wait in regards to the Trophy Room 1’s – which are set to be released on the 10th February 2021.
All said, many of those in the industry have compared this release to the Travis Scott Jordan 1 collaboration, which was aggressively backdoored on a highly anticipated shoe which prompted public discussion on sneakers supply channels and the state of the sneaker world. It became radically clear that the earlier in the supply chain you buy the shoes, and the earlier the pairs you have in hand, the more online clout you receive – and is far less technically intrusive than using bots.
HypePlug is of the opinion that as backdoors become more visible and even more demanding for quick cash in hand, there will be more grassroots resellers aiming to connect with sneaker businesses specialising in early pairs or backdoor plugs. Already in recent years there have been a suspicious rise in the amount of “factory” plugs and even more so on the sell side where there are countless sneaker accounts selling early pairs, many of which cannot be independently verified for authenticity. This will inevitably lead to an increase in fake and replica pairs entering the authentic market and will temporarily propel various sellers into the mainstream.
Despite the antics which take place on the consumer facing side, there is much to be said about the organisations organising the release, and their responsibility to ensure that the pairs make it into the hands of passional sneaker heads who want the sneaker themselves versus the sneaker resell clans. To further add to the dialogue, Nike suggested a retail price of $170, but have listed the sneakers for sale at $190.
Sneakers are obviously at a high mainstream point and this sneaker release may epitomise what the landscape has become, and why there may need to be more aggressive policing by Nike to ensure that their products are still being sold to their core clientele. However with that said, the Jordan brand is incredibly lucrative but the organisation are not making the bulk of their income through the sale of exclusive and limited Jordans, but through the hundreds and thousands of general release sneakers which the average consumer buys. All the exclusivity and hype is pushing a marketing and positioning campaign putting their products in front of the camera being worn by relevant individuals – and maybe the sneaker resellers are relevant individuals in todays day and age for pushing the product and brand into the hands of the next generation.
Fujiwara Hiroshi’s fragment brand recently teased further towards their collaboration with Maserati – the Italian sports car manufacturer.
Having collaborated with brands like Louis Vuitton, BVLGARI, Nike, and Moncler, the fragment brand operated across a wide spectrum of products and offerings – ultimately all embodying the brands ethos and DNA – going beyond streetwear and fashion to the intersections of contemporary art, culture, and lifestyle.
The first look into the Maserati x fragment collaboration came in late 2020 with the Rizzoli published HIROSHI FUJIWARA FRAGMENT #2. This book published various images and prints relating to the then unreleased collaboration.
These Nike SB Dunk Low Elite BE@RBRICK are a part of a Friends & Family pack which included the size 8 sneakers, and two corresponding 100% and 400%. The F&F pack was exclusively distributed to Nike SB team riders.
This pair is draws inspiration from the 2005 Medicom Dunk with the frayed denim style, two toned panel, and iconic colourway.
In 2020, Medicom partnered with Nike SB again to release a similar figurine, with a more glossy finish.
This history of the Nike SB Dunk reads something like a sneaker-world fairytale. What started with a risk — bringing an 1980s basketball shoe back in the 2000s — ended up igniting the world of skateboarding and changed sneaker culture forever. Since 2002, the shoe has resisted definition while attracting devotion around the world. Skateboarders still skate any Dunk to death. Loyal fans keep collecting the latest drops.
Over the past 15 years, a unique alchemy connecting the Nike SB Dunk legacy to skateboarding and pop culture developed. Collaborations and special partnerships helped make that legacy extraordinary. And standing out among the various partners, MEDICOM TOY, the famed Japanese collectable maker, has been both a constant associate and progressive innovator.
Nike and MEDICOM TOY have worked together since 2002, first creating a limited-edition set of Nike-styled BE@RBRICKS. Over the years, projects from Nike Football and Nike basketball (including a series of AF1) have materialized. Despite the breadth of engagement, skateboarding is where the connection is strongest — especially with the Nike SB dunk. The first Nike SB x MEDICOM TOY Dunk, white/college blue with orange accents, released in 2004, and the Nike SB Dunk MEDICOM TOY 2 followed in 2005. With its medium grey/black denim upper, the shoe was immediately recognized as a certified grail. Other shoes that followed toyed with an ever-inventive palate of materials — including reflective 3M, Gore-Tex and even faux fur — the MEDICOM TOY 2 remained the benchmark.
Today, Nike SB and MEDICOM TOY bring a historic twist to the new and innovative Nike SB Zoom Dunk Elite Low. Like the silhouette, the collaboration itself honors the past and points to the future of skateboarding.
After months of delay and aggressive advertising by Dior and their affiliates, the raffle for the Air Dior went live in June 2020. Despite the sneakers price tags of €1,900 and €1,700 for the highs and lows respectively, 5 million participants signed up to win their pair.
Dior representatives in Paris confirmed that they released only 300 pairs in their store – the majority of them being the low cuts.
Unlike most Jordans which are produced in Nike factories, the production was overseen by Dior, justifying somewhat the four-digit retail price point. Some notable highlights demonstrating the craftsmanship include the oblique Dior print on both the swoosh and tongue; the Air Dior wings logo by the ankle, the thicker, softer Dior laces with silver aglets; and the ice-blue sole which features the same Air Dior logo as sported across this capsule collection.
The insides of the shoes are also different from regular Jordans as they all come with an individual printed number – highs and lows both out of 8500. Special promotional pairs do have Miami on the inside which does hint that there are far more than 17,000 total pairs.
Despite the hype which pushed many away from the release, HypePlug is keeping multiple pairs in the closet as these are truly an iconic collaboration.
The sneaker component to the Nothing But the Truth full-length skate video campaign, the What the Dunk Low Pro SB was created from 31 separate Nike SB Dunks. With a design goal to be the “Dunk to end all Dunks”, the creation of the What the Dunk was painstaking, meticulous, and ridiculous on purpose. Despite the draw and buzz––an SB Dunk created from the most popular drops ever created––only a limited run was ever offered to the public.
HypePlug is sharing the Nike Low Pro SB What The Dunk from the HypePlug Closet. Arguably the most iconic of its silhouette, it borrows 31 different design elements from iconic Nike SB designs.
Some notable elements include an embroidered pigeon incorporated from the Pigeon SB Dunk, and neon ‘Jedi’ laces, from the Jedi Dunk. More elements include the Paris SB Dunks, London SB Dunks, Black Buck, RayGun TieDye, Supreme, Diamond Supply Co. and Tweed SB dunks, among others.
Following these dunks Nike has applied the same treatment to other sneakers such as the What The Doernbecher, What The Kobe, What the LeBron, and other Dunk high variants.
The Nike MAGs first caught the eyes of sneakerheads everywhere when they were seen on Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, in the 1989 film Back to the Future II. Fox, world renowned actor and author, made his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis public in 2000, and at just 38 years of age, launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation with the goal of finding a cure to Parkinson’s.
In September 2011, Nike donated 1,500 pairs of the mythical Nike MAGs to be auctioned on eBay, where all the net proceeds went directly to the foundation. The auction ended up bringing in US$4.7 million directly for the foundation.
This extremely rare pair of Michael J. Fox-signed Nike MAGs were auctioned off in July this year through Sotheby’s “From the Archive” series. HypePlug copped them.
“The project brought together three very passionate audiences: the Parkinson’s community, the sneaker head community, and Back to the Future fans”
Nike MAG | The Origins
Introduced to the world in 1989, the global hit Back to the Future II offered a glimpse into what the future could hold in 2015. The most significant takeaway for many was the famous self lacing Nike MAGS, worn by Marty McFly. These iconic sneakers are some of the most universally coveted and the two releases are amongst the top ten most expensive sneakers on StockX.
After the release of the film and the cameo appearance of these self-lacing, futuristic sneakers, Nike was under great pressure from fans everywhere to replicate and release them to the public. In 2011, these voices were heard and the release was given a date, time, and most importantly, a cause– towards the research conducted by the Michael J Fox Foundation to eliminate Parkinson’s Disease. Michael J Fox, the actor who gave us Marty McFly, was diagnosed in 1991 with the degenerative disorder and has since dedicated his life towards eradicating the disease.
Nike MAG 2011 | The Release
The efforts to recreate and release the shoes that shocked the world back in 1989 was a joint effort led by Mark Parker, Nike’s CEO at the time, and Frank Marshall, executive producer of the film.
“The enthusiasm this project ignited, and the funds and awareness the shoes generated for Parkinson’s research, are both humbling and inspiring.”
“Our Foundation is truly grateful to Nike for this unique partnership that brought Back to the Future fans, sneakerheads and the PD community together in the quest to eradicate Parkinson’s from the space-time continuum.”
In September 2011 it was announced that the sneakers would be publicly released– albeit limited. Nike donated 1,500 pairs of the mythical Nike MAG to be auctioned on eBay, with all the net proceeds going directly to the foundation. The auction, though organised predominantly through eBay, was also taken offline– two live auctions were held at the Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, and another one at NikeTown in London.
Both events featured Back to the Future set memorabilia and other collectibles – including two DeLoreans at both locations which came fully equipped with the hoverboard and Doc’s notes.
All donations were matched by Google’s Sergey Brin and then-wife, 23ndMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki, which brought the total sales from US$4.7 million to US$9.4 million. Michael J Fox Foundation The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through an aggressively funded research agenda and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today.
Learn more below about the foundation, their success in pre-clinical and clinical testings, as well as link to donate to help eradicate PD.
“Themes underpinning this market include digital communities, data, product scarcity, and network effects.”
Sneakers As An Alternative Asset Class, Part II, John Kernan et al.
Over past seasons, we have observed a shift in the cultural perception of streetwear, with many high-end fashion houses adopting new streetwear inspired styles or collaborating with brands already in the field. This is a reflection of the overall consumers downward shift towards more casual looks with an appetite for comfort, exclusivity, and clout. Louis Vuitton collaborating with Supreme, Virgil Abloh’s 2018 appointment as artistic director for menswear at Louis Vuitton following iconic collaborations with Nike, and Dior’s recent collaboration with Air Jordan and Stussy are iconic examples of this change. Although the sneaker resale market is separate from the overall streetwear industry, the two are very much linked.
Mainstream interest in sneakers has also increased across all age groups. Market data suggests positive growth in individual ownership of sneakers, with those owning at least 4 to 5 pairs increasing more than 4% in the period between 2014-2019 globally. Furthermore, the growth of that segment – overtaking that of those who own 4-5 pairs – shows that this is a growing space and indicates further room for growth.
Although brands such as Nike or Adidas do not reap any of the direct revenue benefits from the price premiums on the resale market, they take advantage of the hype created around their products to ensure a continuous increase in demand. With limited releases, brands are marketing their product without spending a dime. The natural consequence of this tactic – unfortunately for customers – is the massive inflation in prices, with some pairs in the resale market often trading anywhere from 100% to 500% of the retail price.
This hype has not been lost in the eyes of institutional investors who have realised the value of the resale market worldwide, estimated to be worth around $6B growing at approximately 15% y/y. Experts suggest the market could be worth nearly $30B in the next 10 years. In fact, the resale market is now expanding at an exponentially faster rate than their retail counterparts. Over the past years, the biggest names in the reselling community have attracted attention and raised large amounts of capital from retail giants, venture capital firms, and luxury groups.
Stockx has raised $160.2MM over the past four years, from notable groups such as Google Ventures, and became the first sneaker reseller to obtain ‘unicorn’ status, meaning a billion dollar valuation. Prior to being acquired by FarFetch for a sum of $250MM, Stadium Goods received approximately $17.1MM from investors, $11.5MM of which came from Luxury giant LVMH, while Grailed has raised approximately $16.5MM from venture capital firms through their Seed and Series A rounds. The GOAT Group also went through various investment rounds prior to their 2018 merger with Flight Club, and most recently received $100MM from Foot Locker.
These stakes are not surprising though. According to a Stockx report, sneaker resale prices rose 6%, while the S&P 500 went down 10% in the period between February and May 2020. In an analysis of Nike’s financial performance, it was revealed that the brand’s stock performed 3 to 4 percentage points above the S&P 500 during 13 high-volatility periods in the last 10 years. While other brands such as Adidas and New Balance have also been experiencing encouraging results, Nike remains the favorite of the sector in investors’ eyes.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry has performed well – better than some other sectors – which serves as an encouraging outlook into the future. The reality is that the resale market depends on the overall success of these brands, and these brands benefit drastically from the resale market in terms of free marketing. As both move increasingly towards digital mediums of sale, it will be interesting to see where things are in the next few years. Regardless of what happens, Hypeplug will be here along the way to give you all the necessary insights.