One of the biggest stories in the shoe industry as of late is the fact that Nike has acquired the virtual sneaker designer RTFKT. Successfully on the NFT trend, RTFKT specializes in designing virtual collectibles that exist on the metaverse. Using the blockchain and game engines, they’re able to create works that are 100% unique and worth a fortune. In fact, RTFKT has already had millions of dollars worth of transaction volume, and the company as a whole is valued at over $33 million.
Why The Acquisition Matters
Nike acquired RTFKT is a big deal because it helps to further legitimize NFTs. An NFT is a non-fungible token. In other words, a digital artifact that exists exclusively on a blockchain. By existing only on a blockchain, the artifact can be heavily encrypted, making it one of a kind. NFTs can be created from scratch, as is the case with RTFKT, or they can be existing media that’s turned into an NFT, such as a tweet, video clip, or music.
The acquisition of RTFKT also represents Nike’s shift towards the digital sphere encompassing mediums such as gaming, culture, and other creative endeavors in addition to their strong sports focus. The CEO of Nike, John Donahoe, said that the acquisition is a part of Nike’s plan to expand its digital footprint by helping RTFKT to grow its community.
The History of RTFKT
RTFKT is a very new company, started back in 2020 during the height of the pandemic. It was founded by three friends and has had a strong focus on memes, exclusive collectibles, and of course, sneaker designs which they have become primarily known for.
Early clients of RTFKT included game companies and fashion brands. Before their launch in 2020, they preferred instead to operate from the shadows and keep a low profile. However, once they officially formed in 2020, they became more public with their work. The result has been massive growth and their recent acquisition by Nike.
The RTFKT Style
As with most businesses that develop small before ballooning into massive entities, RTFKT has its own style and culture. Many of the messages they leave on their website are somewhat cryptic, leaving the true meaning obscured. One such example would be the statement in the About section of their website that says the RTFKT project wasn’t meant to start until 2040, but “the human development in consciousness has accelerated faster than anticipated.” What this means is unknown, but either way, it’s incredibly smart branding.
Nike has caught on to this almost subversive style and the mystique that surrounds RTFKT and is using it to leverage its own brand. They have openly acknowledged RTFKT’s incredible community-building capabilities, and the innovation present in those who make up the community.
This unique style and innovative spirit are most notable in RTFKT’s latest project: CloneX. The CloneX project is a partnership with artist Takashi Murakami that’s all about giving people the ability to create virtual avatars. These avatars can range from cute to downright bizarre. The focus is on giving people the creative freedom to represent themself online. According to one of the co-founders of RTFKT, Benoit Pagotto, the CloneX project allows them to combine elements of anime, sci-fi, and streetwear in a unique way that captures the RTFKT style. He even compared the clothing side of it to the release of an entire fashion collection.
How RTFKT Benefits From This Acquisition
It isn’t just Nike that’s making good on the acquisition of RTFKT. Benoit Pagotto has stated that he’s excited to benefit from Nike’s foundation and expertise and that this will help RTFKT to continue to build communities that they love.
Though the exact terms of the acquisition are unknown, what is known is that the start-up managed to raise over $8 in seed capital. This show of faith from investors would have shown Nike that RTFKT is a brand worth taking an interest in.
Other RTFKT Projects
Nike didn’t just base their decision to acquire RTFKT off of their virtual sneaker designs or their massively successful CloneX project. RTFKT has had other successful projects that have elevated the company and made them appealing to investors.
The Jeff Staple project was about designing a new sneaker known as “Jeff Staple” and introducing it into the metaverse. Also known as the Staple Pigeon, this project was completed on June 17th.
RTFKT has always had a very keen interest in fashion, and the Punk Project embodies that. According to the project description, it was all about “celebrating each individual’s character.” It was also stated that this project embodies RTFKT’s vision for the next step in the fashion industry. Punk Project was completed on June 29th.
This project is listed as coming soon on the official RTFKT website. While it isn’t explained exactly what Space Drip is, it is stated that RTFKT is working with 18 legendary artists who have “skinned” their base Drip model. Since “drip” has strong connotations to the fashion industry, it is speculated that this could be a virtual fashion project.
The Future of RTFKT
Partnering with a major brand like Nike is sure to give RTFKT a boost in both their own brand recognition and the value of their brand itself. Benoit Pagotto has stated that Nike shares RTFKT’s passion for community, innovation, and creativity and that he’s excited to grow the brand that was born in the metaverse.
While it is unknown how Nike will use the RTFKT brand, they will likely leverage it to expand into virtual spaces such as online media, video games, and more following their current shift towards digital transformation.
It is also worth noting that RTFKT has started designing physical shoes in partnerships with other crypto creators such as Bored Apes, and CryptoPunks. Whether or not they will design physical shoes for Nike is unknown, but would not be surprising.