“We want to be the brand of the metaverse,” says Chris Le from RTFKT

10 years ago, Nike took a proverbial leap into the future of sneakers with the introduction of the Nike Mag, a fictional sneaker concept inspired by the film Back to the Future Part II.

The 1,500-piece limited edition was so revered for its idiosyncratic lace design that it was inscribed in sneaker folklore as one of the greatest productions of all time.

From the moment legendary 80s hip-hop trio Run-DMC united the crowd by putting their Adidas sneakers to the tune of “My Adidas”, until the debut of the most iconic piece of clothing in basketball (the “Notorious” Air Jordan), the shoes they have become a prominent feature of the fashion culture’s pursuit of appreciation and reverence.

“We want to be the brand of the metaverse,” says Chris Le from RTFKT
“We want to be the brand of the metaverse,” says Chris Le from RTFKT

In this age of visual exuberance It would have been crazy to say that buying a shoe of this caliber is the buyer did not receive the real shoe.

And yet if we carry on today That’s where we are.

What in the course of history was only intended as a tangible good to touch, use and exhibit is now entering a cultural metamorphosis into digital landscapes that arise on blocks and nodes.

Image of the sneaker collaboration “RTFKT x NZXT”. Source: RTFKT.

RTFKT Studios (pronounced “artifact“) is an ambitious project at the forefront of futuristic fashion in the Metaverse.

For years, the collective worked quietly for popular gaming companies and fashion brands until its release in early 2020.

Founded by Chris Le, Benoit Pagotto and Steven Vasilev, RTKFT uses emerging technologies like game engines, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), blockchain-based authentication, and augmented reality to create immersive physical and digital sneakers, as well as AR-embedded collectibles.

The project has gained a lot popularity in the last twelve months, with collaborations of the stature of Jeff staples and Janet Jackson, as well as publications of digital collectibles in the game metaverses The Sandbox and Decentraland.

Additionally team benefited from an $ 8 million fundraiser in May 2021 through notable numbers like Andreessen Horowitz, Galaxy Digital by Mike Novogratz and the CEO of Dapper Labs, Roham Gharegozlou, among other.

In addition to virtual products RTFKT also has two Events Forge, an initiative that allows owners to redeem the physical equivalent of the NFT they own.

To learn more about RTFKT’s behind-the-scenes plans, as well as a perspective on the wider adoption of NFT fashion culture, Cointelegraph spoke to the co-founder and creative director of RTFKT Studios, Chris Le.

Prior to RTFKT, Chris’s career included graphic design for music labels Def Jam and Sony, directing music videos for artists such as Ty Dolla Sign and Anderson .Paak, directing and editing two Netflix films with Danny Trejo, and video game design.

This Zoom interview has been condensed 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 the co-founder and creative director of RTKFT. In everyday life I lead a team of artists and create shoe designs. When I feel like getting my hands dirty, I model the shoes in 3D, do the rendering and create the NFTs.

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 incredibly happy because I was able to use my previous skills in video games and the film industry: designing cosmetics for Dota 2, weapon skins for Counter-Strike Global Offensive, visual effects for fantasy films on Netflix, and a lot more more.

Sneaker designers are traditionally trained in the automotive industry. This is why many sneakers have elegant designs like cars. However, I believe that my training gave me a different perspective than other designers.

CT: You recently worked with NZXT on an augmented reality shoe. Knowing that Facebook has just launched its first virtual reality glasses with Ray-Ban and Snapchat is working on a similar product, what do you think are the current possibilities and limitations of AR, and how do you see the development this area?

CL: I’m a huge AR, VR, and RX enthusiast. The engines’ capabilities have not yet reached the level of ultra realism, but they are starting this with VR, and these engines will be able to carry over to AR.

Some of our filters let you wear the shoe on your foot or put on a jacket, but it’s not perfect yet. Right now, it is NFT enthusiasts from the crypto space who like AR and Snapchat and TikTok users who use 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 mainstream, but it will. I know 100% that we are going in this direction, it is inevitable. However, in order for us to get to this point, AR needs to meet our most basic technological requirements: navigation, phone calls, text messaging, and voice translation.

Image from Chris’ concept design for the Atari shoe. Source: RTFKT

CT: There’s an established history between the fashion industry and the cultures of video games, sports, and hip-hop. Why is it important to RTFKT work together with well-known brands like Atari? What does that represent?

KL: All RTFKT founders came from the video game industry. In my various roles, I’ve seen games be embraced by the masses. The same thing happened to my two co-founders. Benoit came out of luxury fashion and then worked at Fnatic, one of the largest esports teams in the world based in London, while Zaptio made sneakers.

We understand that fashion is one of the best ways to express yourself in this world, especially when everyone’s life is focused on the internet. But we’ve always seen a slight discrepancy between luxury, streetwear, and pop culture with video game culture.

We wanted to be one of the first to really appeal to the gamer aesthetic with urban and luxurious clothing. And that’s what we did. It is always important for us not to work with big luxury brands. We’re the metaverse’s urban and luxury apparel brand, so our top priority must be working with video game companies who would always be number one ahead of Dior, Supreme or whoever.

Working with Atari was amazing as it is one of the most recognizable names in video game history and it was clear that it was going to be a boom.

CT: And you’ve worked with musicians too, right?

KL: We decided that if we ever wanted to work with a musician, it had to be with someone incredibly legendary. That’s why we chose Janet Jackson. For now, she’s the only musical artist we’ll do something with until we decide to broaden our horizons in this area.

CT: Tell us about the introduction of Atari collectibles in Decentraland.

KL: Yes, with the collaboration with Atari, we have brought 1,000 accessories onto the market in Decentraland. To be honest, I think we almost crashed their servers haha!

There were lots of people at the little kiosk where you had to push the button to get a part and everyone was stuck trying to get free RTKFT Atari shoes.

And we plan to announce more of it in the future.

We want to be the sign of the metaverse. We want RTKFT to be more of the brand recognizable not only in the physical realm, but in all universes and worlds that will populate people in the future will. A person should be able to jump into a VR game and watch RTFKT, jump into an AR game and watch RTKFT and then a PC game and we’ll see you again.

CT: And would you ever consider opening a store in a metaverse like Decentraland?

KL: Yes, we plan to do that too.

Image of an unpublished CloneX avatar. Source: RTFKT

CT: Let’s talk about CloneX, the highly anticipated PFP 3D avatar project that will launch on the Ethereum blockchain in mid-October. There will be 20,000 unique avatars, half of which will be allocated to pre-sale for existing RTFKT holders at an issue price of 0.05 ETH, while the other half will be opened at a Dutch public auction.

Are these avatars specially designed for the Metaverse?

KL: Yes that is the question. Everything we do is always useful. Also, we always try to reward our RTFKT owners. So if you have a previous RTFKT they can be used in avatars.

Do you know how the Marvel Cinematic Universe reconnects all of the Avengers’ films? It is so. If you’ve been with us from the start, you’ll see that it all led to it. You can bring your RTFKT to your character

But this is where it gets craziest. Imagine you have an avatar and shirt that is fake. Imagine you have a necklace, also fake. Anything wearing the avatar is counterfeited as a real physical asset, just like we did with the Jeff Staples and punk sneakers.

It’s the craziest and craziest utility I’ve ever seen for a profile picture project. This brings us back to our vision: we want to bridge the gap between the mainstream audience in the physical world you are in right now and the metaverse of the digital gaming scene.

And these characters are used in various metaverse like decentraland with accessories and other things. We also have a number of different partners that we haven’t announced yet. It will keep growing and therefore there will be great benefit to this project.

CT: And what does the future of RTFKT hold?

KL: One of our ambitions is to have our own metaverse, but that gets in the way. The first steps are to become the brand that is present in all metaverse and widespread in the AR, VR and physical worlds.

We just want to be present. Through!

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