Sneaker culture is its own animal. The collectible world of sneakers and shoes has paved a perfect pathway for NFTs and sneakerheads to stake a claim in the metaverse with digital kicks.
In December of 2021, when NFT chatter seemed to have peaked on the internet, Nike acquired RTFKT, “a leading brand that leverages cutting edge innovation to deliver next-generation collectibles that merge culture and gaming.” The company was founded in 2020 by Benoit Pagotto, Chris Le, and Steven Vasilev.
In February of 2021, RTFKT posted on their Instagram about “making history” with a sale that netted over $3.1 million at the time. The brand has definitely earned its salt and boasts hefty celebrity collaborations, including an upcoming event that features popular Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.
With such a groundbreaking acquisition, it’s not unreasonable to see a digi-sneaker storm on the horizon. Nike has secured a place inside the NFT space and Web 3.0 metaverse—but what’s next?
Former Lakers Star Launches Sneaker NFTs
Recently, retired LA Lakers basketball player Metta World Peace made headlines when news broke about his collaboration with BlankSoles for a sneaker in his design. The sneaker calls inspiration from Metta’s own spirit animal, the panda. He reveals he had a strong part in the design process.
In an interview with the Lakers 24/8 podcast, he said, “This [NFT release] is going to set the tone. They’re providing a lot of creativity. Most of the time, when you do a deal with a sneaker company, they take away the creativity. This is going to provide an opportunity for people to create and you’re going to see more and more coming.”
Now Rappers are Launching Sneaker NFTs Too
Rapper Lil Durk has taken to the metaverse with the launch of his ‘7220’ NXTG3NZ NFT digital sneaker. The company was co-founded by Lil Durk, Satoshi Designs, and Nexus. Satoshi Design “is the first marketing, design, & communication company, that deals with Bitcoin, crypto projects and fintech,” according to their introduction.
Durk recently sat down for an interview with Forbes, where he said, “The power has shifted to the artists and their fans with Blockchain tech. I want to not only be a successful rapper/entrepreneur but a powerhouse voice in the metaverse and NFT community, at the forefront of this movement.”
Durk plans to create generational wealth for his family in his quest for NFT and metaverse legacy and glory. He explained the risks he’s taking with the design and launch. In the metaverse and the fast-changing world of NFTs and tech, the sway of public opinion can change as quickly as the weather.
“It’s about taking a risk and having people around you believing in the same thing as you,” Lil Durk said.
But big risks can yield large rewards. The 10,000 units of the NFT sneaker are designed by Devonte’ Black, the designer, founder, and creator of Enspire Streetwear.
“I paid attention to the NFT market, and I didn’t see much fashion,” Durk said. “I saw art. Being into fashion and being known for my style, I felt like the fashion part of NFTs was missing, and being one of the first to fuse them together would be perfect.”
Is the Metaverse Ready for Streetwear?
It’s true that streetwear fashion hasn’t made its way into the NFT metaverse just yet. There have been a handful of designers and luxury brands that have dipped their toes into the digital realm of NFTs. But many people get stumped on the digital-only aspect of NFTs, many of which are only wearable on certain platforms. Sometimes, the digital asset is adjustable so it can be ported into 3D programs, but for the average consumer, it may seem out of reach.
There is one artist changing the narrative about digital wearables – Zack Kroll, a.k.a. Bald Boy. Now, there are sneakers you can only wear in AR. AR, or Augmented Reality, is different from the ever-popular VR. Virtual Reality requires a headset, like the Oculus, to transport users into different worlds like games, chat rooms, and movie-like experiences. AR, however, “augments” our current reality. The average person has probably used a Snapchat filter—that’s AR. Pokemon Go is another popular example, using players’ phone cameras to place catchable pokemon out in the real world.
Social media has always been prime real estate for AR and Zach Kroll. He creates sneakers available as Snapchat filters that users can wear in their cameras. He drops a pair on “SatARdays” where users can “put on” a pair of these shoes. They adapt to light and shadow and stick to the feet of the user as they walk around.
“Wearables” is a term used in the NFT world to describe something only digital avatars can wear. You can flex them online and post the photos to your social media, but the shoes don’t have a physical twin in the real world. Kroll’s concept is not that distant from that of the digital dressing room —one that uses AR to help shoppers try on clothing.
The real-world application of this kind of technology is becoming more and more prevalent, and may one day not be simply a fun toy, but actually the future of digital couture.
In the case of the Iridescence dress by The Fabricant in 2021, the buyer of the viral NFT expressed a desire to wear the garment inside of a platform like TikTok or Snapchat.
It appears the winds are changing and tech is becoming more refined in order for the average consumer to become a buyer in luxury fashion and sneaker NFTs.