Nike has taken the concept of “exclusive fashion” to a whole new level by buying up a company that sells shoes people will never wear, or even touch.
The brand has bought RTFKT Studios (pronounced “artefact”), a British start-up* that creates virtual sneakers and clothing that sell for thousands of dollars.
RTFKT’s technology lets buyers look like they are wearing these items on social media platforms such as Instagram and its collaborations* with video game companies allow players to dress their avatars in their RTFKT purchases.
Nike did not reveal how much it paid for the one-year-old London start-up but RTFKT was valued at $33 million in its last funding round in May, where it raised $8 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, a Silicon Valley* venture capital firm* known for making savvy* investments in businesses including Facebook, Airbnb and Slack.
Such investments have come as little surprise to those monitoring the hype* around RTFKT.
In February, the company sold 621 pairs of rainbow-coloured virtual sneakers in collaboration with the teenage artist FEWOCiOUS in just six minutes, earning more than $3.1 million. Some were resold a few weeks later for double the price, at about $5000 for each pair.
Other pairs of virtual sneakers created by RTFKT have sold for as much as $40,000.
Nike chief executive John Donahoe said the purchase of RTFKT would help accelerate Nike’s “digital transformation” and allow it to “serve athletes and creators at the intersection of sport, creativity, gaming and culture”.
Benoit Pagotto, a co-founder of RTFKT, said the start-up was “fully formed in the metaverse*” and that the company would continue to evolve* its innovations* and products with Nike’s assistance.
A number of companies have shown an interest in the “metaverse” since Facebook announced in October 2021 that it would invest billions of dollars in building the infrastructure for this digital universe.
It is expected to be a series of digital 3D worlds people can jump into, either through virtual reality goggles or their computer, where they will be able to meet friends, have work meetings, go on dates and shop.
Within such worlds, brands believe people will want their digital selves to wear the latest fashions, and it is in this area where companies such as RTFKT are expected to excel.
This story was originally published by the London Times and is reproduced with permission.
- start-up: a new business that is started from scratch
- collaborations: the actions of working with someone to produce something
- Silicon Valley: an area in northern California in the US where some of the world’s largest tech companies are based
- venture capital firm: a company that provides money to help businesses get started in exchange for a share of that company
- savvy: clever, well-informed
- hype: excitement, interest
- metaverse: a network of 3D virtual worlds
- evolve: develop gradually
- innovations: new methods, ideas or products
- Which company has Nike bought?
- What does this company produce?
- Where is this company based?
- How long did it take the company to sell 621 pairs of rainbow-coloured virtual sneakers in February?
- How much money did these 621 pairs of virtual sneakers sell for in total?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. What do you think?
“Virtual fashion is a waste of money!” Do you agree with this statement? Write paragraphs explaining your answer. Use information in the story and your own ideas to back up your opinion.
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Digital Technologies
What would a day in a virtual 3D school be like? Create a story, a plan for a game or an artwork showing this.
Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Digital Technologies, Visual Communication Design
I spy nouns
Nouns are places, names (of people and objects), and time (months or days of the week).
How many nouns can you find in the article?
Can you sort them into places, names and time?
Pick three nouns and add an adjective (describing word) to the nouns.