A decade ago, Nike took a giant leap into the future of sneakers with the introduction of the Nike Mag – a fantasy shoe inspired by the movie Back to the Future Part II.
The limited edition of 1,500 is so revered for its unique self-lacing design that it has entered sneaker folklore as one of the greats.
From the moment the legendary hip-hop trio Run-DMC of the 80s united the crowd by upgrading their Adidas shoes to the sound of “My Adidas” to the introduction of iconic clothing – Sports shoes have become a standout feature in the pursuit of respect and awe for fashion culture.
In optically modern times like these, it’s strange to assume that buying a shoe this size won’t get the buyer back. actual shoes.
But fast forward to this day, and that’s exactly where we are.
What was historically only conceived as a tangible good that could be touched, worn and shown, is now entering a phase of cultural metamorphosis into virtual landscapes made from blocks and buttons.
RTFKT Studios (pronounced “Artifact”) is an ambitious project at the forefront of futuristic fashion in the Metaverse.
For years, the collective worked tacitly for selected game companies and fashion brands until it announced its public launch in early 2020.
Founded by Chris Le, Benoit Pagotto, and Steven Vasilev, RTKFT uses emerging technologies such as game engines, immutable tokens (NFTs), blockchain validation, and augmented reality to create immersive physical and virtual sneakers, as well as AR-integrated collections.
The project went through social growth over the past twelve months, with collaborations with the likes of Jeff Staples and Janet Jackson, and reduced digital collections in the game supermarkets The Sandbox and Decentraland.
Aside from that, The team benefited from an 8 million dollar financing round in May 2021 from well-known personalities such as Andreessen Horowitz, the CEOs of Galaxy Digital, Mike Novogratz and Roham Gharegozlou.
In addition to virtual products, RTFKT also carried out two forgeries event, an initiative that gives owners the option to redeem the physical counterpart of their NFT property.
For a behind-the-scenes look at RTFKT’s upcoming projects, as well as views on broader adoption of NFT fashion culture, Cointelegraph spoke to RTFKT Studios Co-Founder and Creative Director Chris Le.
Prior to RTFKT, Chris worked as a graphic designer for the music labels Def Jam and Sony, as a music video director for artists such as Ty Dolla Sign and Anderson .Paak, and as a director and editor for two Netflix films with Danny Trejo, in addition to the styling game.
This Zoom interview has been compressed to accommodate reading restrictions.
Cointelegraph: Chris, thank you for joining us today. What is your current job at RTFKT and which projects are you concentrating on?
Chris Le: I am co-founder and creative director at RTKFT. Every day I lead a team of artists and develop ideas for sports shoe designs. When I feel like getting my hands dirty, I model the sneakers in 3D, do all the rendering and make NFTs out of them.
To be honest, I don’t even consider myself a sneaker designer, I never had that ambition. The funny thing is, when I fell for it, I was super happy that I was able to use my previous skills from the video game and film industry: designing cosmetics for Dota 2, weapon skins for Counter-Strike Global Defensive, effect visuals for fantasy Movies on Netflix and more.
Traditionally, sneaker designers trained in the automotive industry. That’s why many sneakers are as sleek as cars. However, I feel like my background made me look different than other designers.
CT: You recently worked with NZXT on a pair of augmented reality sneakers. When you find out that Facebook has just launched its first VR headset with Ray-Ban and Snapchat working on a similar product, what do you think are the current possibilities and limitations of AR, and do you see how this area developed?
KL: I’m a big fan of AR, VR, and XR. The tool functions are not yet complete for Surrealism, but start with VR and these tools will be able to translate into AR.
Some of our filters let you wear sneakers or a jacket, but it’s still not perfect. Currently, NFT-native crypto enthusiasts are participating in AR, and Snapchat and TikTok users are using face filters for content purposes.
Where we want AR to go mainstream is the benefits in real life. I don’t think it will be super mainstream, but it will. With 100% confidence I know we are going in this direction, it is inevitable. In order for us to get there, AR needs to meet our most basic technological requirements – navigation, calls, SMS and voice translation.
CT: There’s a long history between the fashion industry and gaming, sports and hip-hop cultures. Why is RTFKT important? cooperate with legacy brands like Atari? What does that represent?
KL: The founders of RTFKT all come from the gaming industry. In my various roles, I’ve found the game to be accepted by mainstream audiences. The same goes for my two co-founders. Benoit has a background in luxury fashion and later started working for Fnatic – one of the largest esports teams in the world based in London, while Zaptio was an athletic shoe maker.
We understand that fashion is one of the best ways to express yourself in this world, especially since people focus their lives on the internet. But we’ve always seen a little difference between luxury culture, streetwear and pop culture and gaming culture.
We wanted to be among the first to really translate our gaming aesthetic to streetwear and chic. And that’s what we did. It is important to us not to work with big luxury brands. We’re a luxury / streetwear metaverse brand and so our top priority is working with video game companies that will always be number one compared to Dior, Supreme or others.
Atari collaborations are amazing as they are some of the most famous names in gaming history and it hurts to be well received.
CT: And you’ve worked with musicians too, right?
KL: We decided that if we were going to work with a music artist, it had to be with a crazy legendary person. That’s why we chose Janet Jackson. Right now this is the only music artist we’re going to drop something on until we decide to expand our horizons into this area.
Similarly, NFT could spell a resurgence in art galleries
CT: Tell us about your Atari collection in Decentraland.
KL: Well, with Atari’s partnership we have sold 1,000 wearables in Decentraland. Honestly, I think we almost crashed your server haha!
There are a ton of people in the little kiosk where you have to push a button to get the reward and everyone is just jamming this bloodsucker trying to get free RTKFT Akari sneakers!
And we plan to announce more of it in the future.
We want to be metaverse’s trademark. We want RTKFT to be the best Recognizable brand name not only in the physical area, but also in all universes and worlds in which people will live in the future. You could join a VR game and watch RTFKT, join an AR game and watch RTKFT, then join a PC game and see us again.
CT: And have you ever thought about opening a store / shop in a supermarket like Decentraland?
KL: Yes, we want that too.
CT: Let’s talk about CloneX – the highly anticipated Avatar PFP holographic project that will kick off on the Ethereum blockchain in mid-October. There will be 20,000 unique avatars, half of which will be given for pre-sale to existing RTFKT holders at a price of 0.05 ETH, while the other half will be opened in a semi-public Dutch auction.
Are these avatars specially designed for the Metaverse?
KL: Oh, that’s the whole point. Everything we do always has a certain usefulness. Also, we always try to reward our RTFKT owners. So if you have previous RTFKT they can be used on the avatar.
Do you know how Marvel’s cinematic universe merges all of the films into Avengers? It is like it is. If you’ve been with us from the start, you’ll find that this all leads to it. You can wear all RTFKT on your character.
But here it gets even crazier. Imagine you have an avatar and they have a t-shirt that can be forged. Imagine it has a necklace, possibly a fake too. Anything the avatar wears can pretend to be real substance like we did with Jeff Staples and punk sneakers.