Yesterday Nike Inc announced it acquired NFT startup RTFKT Studios for an undisclosed sum. In May, the startup raised an $8 million seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz at a $33.3 million valuation. It’s perhaps best known for three sneaker NFTs that sold for more than $3 million back in March, shortly after Christie’s record Beeple NFT sale.
RTFKT recently launched a series of CloneX avatar NFTs with artist Takashi Murakami.
The RTFKT founders have creative backgrounds, but for those three famous sneakers, they partnered with 18-year old designer Fewocious. More than anything, what Nike is buying is access to talent deeply in touch with crypto culture and community.
“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,” said John Donahoe, President and CEO of NIKE, Inc.
“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.”
RTKFT is by no means the only brand associated with fashion and NFTs, but it’s the one that most closely matches both Nike’s brand positioning and crypto culture, with a little crypto bro bent. That said, one can best describe the CloneX avatars as androgynous.
Digital fashion meets NFTs
Back in 2019, Nike patented tokenizing ownership of shoes with NFTs. But these were linked to physical shoes as opposed to digital ones.
Fashion house Diesel also recently launched a sneaker NFT, and Diesel owner OTB set up an entire division to focus on the sector. It partnered with self described digital fashion house TheFabricant, which has also previously collaborated with RTKFT as well as Vogue.
Another participant in the fashion NFT sector is Neuno which is expected to launch its marketplace with the Diesel sneaker. We’d position it as aiming to be the Net-a-Porter of digital fashion. But it too has competition because The DeMaterialised is already up and running.
Meanwhile, competitor Adidas has taken a different tack. It’s directly collaborating with cool crypto brands and influencers through deals with Bored Ape Yacht Club, The Sandbox game, Coinbase and others.