Riding the Chain

Preview image of “Riding the Chain”
  • Buffalo offers its boots as an NFT – with added layers
  • Photos: The Fabricant, RTFKT
RTFKT’s digital metajacket is not in the bargain bucket

From art to marketing: blockchain tech enables brands to sell digital files as NFTs.

Take a gif of a cat with a PopTart body, daubing a rainbow trail as it flies through space: This meme has been exchanged for free online since 2011, but the “original” Nyan Cat sold this year for approximately 600,000 dollars – in the form of an NFT, or non-fungible token. What it means is NFTs are not mutually exchangeable like units of currency where one dollar is worth one dollar and is exchangeable as such. NFTs are one-off creations that cannot be exchanged – in the way of an antique, or indeed, a physical artwork. Except they are digital, so you can’t touch them. What makes this possible is blockchain, a peer-to-peer authentication system most famous as the architecture of cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

After several more spectacular digital art transactions, NFTs are the latest space for sports and fashion-brands. They enable guaranteed limited-edition digital creations that can be sold to collectors according to appetite and pocket capacity – with plenty of marketing impact. Buffalo London for example teamed up with digital fashion brand The Fabricant to create a digital
sneaker sold as an NFT. The shoe was even sold in five parts – “NFT layers” – with different design options available. Perhaps the best known NFT fashion house, RTFKT Studios, collaborated earlier this year with 18-year-old crypto-artist FEWOCiOUS to create a series of virtual sneakers. Bidders could “try on” the sneakers via Snapchat before bidding. The range sold 600 pairs, making more than $3.1 million dollars. RTFKT has also forayed outside the sneaker world with its “Metajacket”. The shimmering, souped-up puffer with anime ears and hologram inserts comes with a levitating necklace. One sold for just under 60,000 dollars this year.

Luxury brands have struggled so far to get in on the NFT money train, with Gucci selling a horse painting for just $5,000 over its initial price of $20,000. Dolce & Gabbana recently launched its #DGGenesi collection of NFT wearables. But in-game NFTs have been somewhat more successful – it took just a few minutes to sell $395,000 worth of Burberry NFTs on the game Blankos Block Party.

But beyond the collectibility and status of owning such things, augmented reality could actually make fashion NFTs more, well, wearable. AR could allow people to wear bodysuits in real life and view each other’s fashion NFTs through AR glasses, overlaying extra info onto a real-world view. RTFKT often posts people walking around in its AR gear, including its Metajacket, giving
a view of how it might look through AR glasses. In February they posted a photo of Elon Musk with their sneakers superimposed onto his feet. “AR will be the next paradigm shift that will completely change personal style and fashion in the next 10 years” says RTFKT co-founder Benoit Pagotto. “NFTs combined with the future release of consumer-ready AR glasses will enable that revolution to happen.”