RTFKT may be the next big name in the virtual world. The digital fashion company successfully designs and sells virtual sneakers and other fashion items for the metaverse, the next version of the internet. RTFKT is working on a broader platform for digital fashion. 'It is such a success because we created something unique'.
Imagine, you have a few minutes to sell a product that doesn't exist i n reality and you make a million dollars. That is exactly what RTFKT Studios managed to do. Earlier this year the digital fashion house sold $3.1 million worth of NFT sneakers in just seven minutes. Even Tesla's Elon Musk was wearing one of their models, the 'Cyber Sneaker', that went viral on the internet.
Creating a new virtual world
This is not about sneakers you wear on the street, but sneakers that exist in the digital world. „We are trying to pioneer how people are thinking of buying sneakers and items in the future as collectibles. There is a huge interest, it is a whole movement," says RTFKT co-founder Benoit Pagotto in an interview with CNBC. Pagotto used to work as a brand and marketing strategist before launching RTFKT (pronounced artifact) in 2020 together with co-founders Chris Le and Steven Vasilev.
RTFKT Studios plans to build an NFT marketplace platform to create a new virtual world. As a digital fashion company RTFKT was born from gaming. „We have always been part of these virtual worlds. We grew up playing Diablo and Minecraft, watching Akira and Star Wars." In their professional work they designed luxury retail stores and created logos for hip hop artists. In 2020 the team of three decided to combine their passions and skills 'to build the future of fashion and collectibles'. The team at RTFKT Studio works together with gamers and artists to create NFTs, whether that be virtual sneakers or the digital-only jeans for which it collaborated with Murder Bravado. They also partnered with digital fashion house The Fabricant in Amsterdam. „There is a lot going on. Creators and collectors are making change and things happen every day."
Metaverse: the next version of the internet
NFT stands for non-fungible tokens. It is a digital asset (image, movie or even text) that you can own, buy or sell. We have already seen digital works of art sold for millions of euros. In games and other internet spaces players want to dress up their avatars with digital items and they are willing to pay for it. The idea is that in the future the internet will transform into a metaverse: people will not be looking at flat pages anymore, but our avatars will actively participate in 3D virtual festivals, cafes and other virtual reality gatherings. Of course, your avatar needs to look excellent. For this, people participating in the transforming digital world collect digital fashion items.
RTFK Studios stands at the forefront of digital fashion. The company wants to expand its collection of sneakers into other fashion items for the metaverse. For now, the digital sneakers will have real world versions as well. „People are also going to get physical ones. The NFT of the sneaker is like a blueprint. Without the NFT you cannot have access to the physical goods. So, it is acting as a key to give you access to the physical version of that." The challenge for the company lies in the pioneering work. „This is the first time it is done, so it is very exciting. People put in the money to buy it. What is crazy, they are selling it for higher prices on the second market already."
Blockchain prevents illegal copying
But what about illegal copying of digital items? Co-founder Chris Le explains: „It is simple because everything is on the blockchain. For example, how do you authenticate a basketball jersey signed by Michael Jordan? It is really hard, because you need to verify the signature. Maybe there is a picture of him signing it. With blockchain it would be easily traced back to him. For every collector that buys the product, it traces the purchase, when it happened, how much they purchased it for. There can't be copies of the original. If there is anything that looks like copies, you can easily tell where the original source came from."
To build the NFT platform RTFK Studios secured $8 million in a funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz. In a statement the venture capital firm explained: „As we spend more time in virtual worlds, we will take care just as much about our digital sneakers and handbags as we do our physical ones. Over the past decade, games have evolved from entertainment into social networks. For many folks today, games are the new mail and sports bar. RTFKT is leading the way in building the bridge between digital and physical fashion."
Spreading the message of digital fashion
The next step is to grow to reach a broad audience. „When you are part of something new, you have your role to educate and spread the message how people can connect to that world and be part of the movement," Pagotto says. „For us it is natural, we come from video games and animations. It is all the things we love and know. What we do is very genuine."