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Co-founder of RTFKT
In December 2021, Nike acquired collectible sneaker retailer and NFT platform RTKFT. Founded in the U.S. by Benoit Pagotto, Steven Vasilev and Chris Le in 2019, RTFKT has since grown its web3 creator community and business through digital sneaker ownership and its avatar offerings, and benefited from 2021’s NFT and metaverse boom. As a result of the acquisition, Nike now leads the metaverse fashion sector with $185 million in NFT sales.
The idea of community ownership is still relatively new for brands. Nike has only focused on NFTs and phygital product launches since the RTFKT acquisition, starting with the launch of a 20,000-piece Cryptokicks NFT collection in April 2022. And Pagotto’s been behind its most fashion-forward web3 initiatives.
Pagotto’s first job was at French department store Colette, where he saw high fashion collaborating with streetwear, music and art. After that, he worked for years as a consultant for LVMH, designing shops and in-store customer journeys, before working for esports team Fnatic. There, he met his RTFKT co-founders, and the trio created the first digital fashion sneakers, launching them on the RTFKT website.
“We started with sneakers because we felt it was the best asset that was missing from gaming culture,” Pagotto said. “Although sneakers have been huge in fashion in the past eight years, no sneaker was talking to the gaming audience, in terms of aesthetic.”
Since then, RTFKT has expanded its focus to AR, VR, PFPs and phygital garments. “Our goal when we started was to create totally new types of brands, [introducing] a blueprint of a brand of the future that was not tied to any legacy in the real world. Digital products would be their main products, and would exist across the virtual world and physical world at the same time,” said Pagotto. He said avatars and PFPs have big potential for brands, moving forward. RTFKT continues to work with brands beyond Nike, like Rimowa, which it collaborated with in October 2022.
“Most brands are just making products that they put on ambassadors, scouting them based on who’s hot in the cultural space and paying them to wear them,” said Benoit. “But brands working on avatars can go beyond that and even create an identity layer, because avatars can be any form or shape in the metaverse.”
Currently, RTFKT’s 20,000-piece CloneX PFP NFT collection, created in partnership with artist Takashi Murakami in November 2021, has a trading volume of $584,416. In February 2022, RTFKT gave commercial rights to the CloneX NFT holders, allowing them to create derivative projects, mint fan art, and make and sell merchandise featuring their avatars.
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