The Kanye West sneakers that helped turn athletic shoes into coveted fashion items are up for sale at auction house Sotheby’s, where they are estimated to fetch more than US$1 million. The sneakers were the prototypes for the Yeezy line developed by West and Mark Smith for Nike, and revealed by the rapper during his performance at the 2008 Grammy Awards. Sotheby’s says the Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototypes are being offered for private sale, starting on April 12. The auction house describes them as being among the most valuable sneakers ever brought to market. Sneakers have become collectors’ items in recent years, joining more traditional assets like art, wine and jewellery at the world’s big auction houses. In 2019, Sotheby’s held its first auction dedicated entirely to sneakers. In May 2020, it sold a pair of 1985 Air Jordan 1’s, designed for and worn by basketball player Michael Jordan, for what was then a world record US$560,000. The black leather, size 12 Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototypes have a Yeezy forefoot strap and the brand’s signature Y medallion lace locks in pink. Why Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers are the shoes of 2020 West wore them for his emotional performances of Hey Mama and Stronger at the 2008 Grammy Awards, setting off a social media frenzy among fashion lovers. They were later sold in a charity auction and are being put up for sale at Sotheby’s by New York collector Ryan Chang. Brahm Wachter, head of streetwear and modern collectibles at Sotheby’s, says the sneakers were “critical to the development of the Yeezy franchise, which became one of the most important sneaker and lifestyle brands in history”. West ended his collaboration with Nike in 2013 and took the brand to Adidas . American business magazine Forbes said last week that the Yeezy brand of sneakers brought in an estimated US$1.7 billion in sales in 2020. The prototype sneakers will go on public display in Hong Kong from April 16-21, alongside Chinese works of art up for auction at Sotheby’s. The world’s most expensive sneakers are thought to be a pair designed in 2016 by New York lifestyle brand Bicion and Mache Custom Kicks that were embellished with diamonds and sapphires and valued at US$4 million.