The word "grail" gets thrown around a lot these days, but one almost mythical sneaker that does deserve the term is Chanel's take on the Reebok InstaPump Fury from 2000. For sneaker collectors, it's a real unicorn.

Following the sad passing of Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld, we look back at one of the most interesting artifacts in sneaker culture and a fascinating moment in Chanel history.

The Chanel x Reebok InstaPump Fury was never produced beyond the runway, with one rare example surfacing at 2015's “Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture" exhibition. According to the American Federation of Arts, which organized the traveling exhibition in partnership with Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum, "The Reebok x Chanel InstaPump Fury is one of the first and most elusive high fashion sneaker collaborations."

When asked about the Chanel InstaPump Fury, a representative from the Reebok archive told Highsnobiety, "As one of, if not the first, example of Chanel collaborating with a sportswear company, this shoe built a bridge between high fashion and athletic wear that endures today. The shoe exudes a simple elegance and chicness that others are still trying to emulate over 18 years later. This can be seen with the Concepts collaboration and the number of counterfeit/fake Chanel InstaPumps that are still being made and can be found on the market today."

Although he had moved on by the time of the Chanel collab, Steven Smith, designer of the original 1994 Reebok InstaPump Fury, echoes those sentiments. "It was one of the first high fashion house collabs, so that in itself is pretty groundbreaking," he says.

Images and videos from Chanel's ready-to-wear Spring/Summer 2001 show, held in Paris in October 2000, show the shoes on the runway (look for them around the 2:30 mark in the video below). According to our source at Chanel, after their appearance on the catwalk, the shoes were gifted to family and friends.

The colorway is relatively pared-back, with a predominantly gray upper and black midsole, but the interlocking-C Chanel logo on the heel is what sends shivers up the spines of collectors. Accounts differ, but there have also been suggestions of a black version, which may have been even more limited than the gray colorway. When asked about this, the Reebok representative told us, "We’ve seen reference to the black leather pair; we haven’t seen one in person."

In December 2016, Boston-based store Concepts released an homage to the sneaker, redoing the InstaPump Fury in both gray and black with its own double-C logo on the heel.

"You’d have been hard-pressed to find the original sample back then, so [when] we got an invite to the [Reebok] vault, that’s the first shoe we set out in search of," says Concepts creative director Deon Point. "The idea of luxury is something we have always included in all collaborations, so that, coupled with the ability to tell this story, drew us to this particular project. For the design, we kept it intact aside from branding."

So at least one pair of the super-limited Chanel x Reebok shoe still exists, kept safely at Reebok's Boston archive, as well as a handful of others owned by private collectors. But as you can see, even those who have worked for Reebok and Chanel remain unsure about all aspects of the Chanel InstaPump Fury, such is the shoe's mystique.

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