The next digital shoe has dropped at Nike Inc.
The sneaker giant acquired RTFKT — a company founded in January 2020 by Benoit Pagotto, Chris Le and Steven Vasilev, who have described their start-up as “born on the block chain” and best known for its “Metaverse-ready sneakers and collectibles.”
In a post to their web site in May, the trio said they grew up playing Minecraft, watching Star Wars and collecting Pokemon cards before going on to designing luxury stores, engaging with esports and making logos for hip hop artists.
Merging their “geek passions and our professional expertise” they launched RTFKT to “build the future of fashion and collectibles” and made a splash.
RTFKT’s collaboration with the 18-year-old artist Fewocious sold more than $3 million worth of digital sneakers in under seven minutes.
Not enough to really topple Nike, which logged revenues of $44.5 billion last year, but RTFKT was doing enough right to get the sportswear giant’s attention.
John Donahoe, president and chief executive officer of Nike Inc. said: “This acquisition is another step that accelerates Nike’s digital transformation and allows us to serve athletes and creators at the intersection of sport, creativity, gaming and culture. We’re acquiring a very talented team of creators with an authentic and connected brand. Our plan is to invest in the RTFKT brand, serve and grow their innovative and creative community and extend Nike’s digital footprint and capabilities.”
Nike said RTFKT “leverages the latest in game engines, NFTs, blockchain authentication and augmented reality to create one of a kind virtual products and experiences.”
The sneaker company has been upping its digital game lately, for instance launching Nike LeBron 19 styles in Fortnite.
Now, it’s ready for more.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Pagotto said: “This is a unique opportunity to build the RTFKT brand and we are excited to benefit from Nike’s foundational strength and expertise to build the communities we love. Nike is the only brand in the world that shares the deep passion we all have for innovation, creativity and community, and we’re excited to grow our brand which was fully formed in the metaverse.”
Fashion’s recent history has it largely ignoring, downplaying or paying only lip service to many tech trends that promised to be the next big thing, missing out on early opportunities in e-commerce or on social media and so on.
But the industry seems to want to correct that and is ready to pounce on the metaverse, taking seriously the budding sales of digital style, and buying in in significant ways even as the larger scene develops.
And with its new deal, Nike brings in some native talent.
“RTFKT is born on the blockchain to ensure authenticity, ownership and grant access to new experiences,” the founders said. “We believe that blockchain technology has the potential to empower creators to lead, collaborate and create with no limits. NFTs are a transformative medium that is going to develop a new paradigm between creativity and commerce.
“We believe when communities organize and demand influence, they can move the world and turn the old guard on its head,” they said.
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