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Nike x RTFKT: A Turning Point for the Apparel Metaverse

Last Updated: July 5, 2023
RTFKT will continue creating its one-of-a-kind virtual sneakers and digital collectibles under Nike’s ownership, a breakthrough in the growth of the virtual apparel industry.

Nike announced Monday that it bought virtual shoe company RTFKT (pronounced “artifact”) as the sneaker and apparel giant works to solidify its footprint in the metaverse.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but RTFKT will continue operating and creating under Nike’s ownership.

So, what does a move like this mean for Nike? When the apparel giant announced the acquisition, it featured an image of RTFKT’s logo next to some of its other big-name brands, from Jumpman to Converse and beyond. This could mean that Nike is gearing up to pour some significant resources into RTFKT to make sure the company lands big endorsements and partnership deals to become the premier sneaker brand of the metaverse.

“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,” Nike President and CEO John Donahoe said in an official release. “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.”  

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Nike has always been a leader in physical apparel, there is no doubting that, but there will be stark competition in the metaverse. Earlier this month, Adidas announced multiple partnerships with metaverse leaders including Bored Ape Yacht Club, Gmoney, and Punks Comic.

Nike’s acqusition of RTFKT comes after it filed a string of trademark applications and unveiled its flagship digital world, NIKELAND. And remember when Nike secured the patent for CryptoKicks back in December 2019? That was two years ago, so it’s clear Nike is serious about dominating retail in the metaverse world and I don’t think the company is just going to be releasing sneakers, we already expect that.

What is RTFKT? The Story So Far

Launched in January 2020, RTFKT merges gaming and fashion by creating virtual sneakers and digital artifacts like memes and exclusive collectibles for use in the metaverse’s infinite virtual worlds.

The company was founded by three passionate friends: Benoit Pagotto, Chris Le, and Steven Vasilev. RTFKT leverages augmented reality, blockchain, NFTs, and other technological advances to create its one-of-a-kind products.

In under two years in business, RTFKT raised $9.5 million in venture capital, including an $8 million seed round from investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Galaxy Digital, Larry Warsh, and Ledger. Earlier this year, the company collaborated with young artist Fewocious that brought in $3 million in roughly seven minutes from digital sneaker sales, RTFKT’s founders reported in a Medium blog.

RTFKT’s momentum is right on track since the company also announced this week that it’s collaborating with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami for its first NFT avatar project entitled Clone X. The new project includes 20,000 3D avatars that feature a combination of random and unique traits designed by Murakami.

CryptoSlam reports that the project has brought in roughly $85 million in sales, $17.5 million of which rang in on the day Nike made its acquisition announcement.

“This is a unique opportunity to build the RTFKT brand, and we are excited to benefit from Nike’s foundational strength and expertise to build the communities we love,” Benoit Pagotto, co-founder of RTFKT, said in a statement. “Nike is the only brand in the world that shares the deep passion we all have for innovation, creativity, and community, and we’re excited to grow our brand which was fully formed in the metaverse.”

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