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Andrew Thompson on... cultivating the NFT's moment

Andrew Thompson
06 January 2022

Does NFT open the door for more self-expression when it comes to transcending boundaries between the digital and physical? The growth of NFT’s - Non Fungible Tokens - in the Fashion & Sport industry throws up some questions for me.

NFT (or Non Fungible Tokens) are unique digital tokens that serve as proof of ownership of an asset, that cannot be replicated. NFTs use blockchain technology, which acts as a digital record stored indefinitely on your own personal wallet.

Following the recent news that Nike had officially acquired the NFT virtual sneaker brand – RTFKT, this is surely going to have a massive impact in merging culture and gaming. Nike has pledged to make NFT / metaverse design a priority. I am intrigued to see what is developed both visually and through sensorial experience in this space.

“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, one of RTFKT’s co-founders via news Nike.

Nike isn't the only forward-thinking brand pursuing how to employ the power of the metaverse through NFT, augmented reality or video games. Balenciaga’s unfamiliar yet brilliant collaboration with Epic Games Fortnite was the first of its kind. Balenciaga’s Fortnite characters and outfits were also used to create real-world immersive 3D billboard experiences in London, New York, Tokyo, and Seoul.

Fornite Balenciaga
Fornite Balenciaga

Will people acquire NFTs to feel closer to specific culture or brand image? For example, how often do sneakerheads actually wear their sneakers? Pushing the idea of collectibles in the metaverse seems a tangible way to curb consumption or at least shop more responsibly. Could this movement pioneer how people might buy sneakers in the future? As a society it could be said we are rethinking the idea of ownership, drawing parallels from the success of rental clothing markets and the rise of subscription models in fashion and other sectors.

I don’t think it would be a sweeping generalisation to mention that the younger generation in particular are more interested in experiences and access to knowledge. So the idea of owning unique digital artwork where you can share it on social media as exclusive content could cultivate a different mindset around collecting sneakers. Sharing and educating communities about new design features or the latest techniques may encourage conversation about future collections. In some cases, maybe the exploration of ideas could lead to increased efficiency of production. Does digital fashion hold impetus to reduce waste as it doesn’t go through the physical design and sampling process?

Conversely, it’s argued that NFTs pose an environmental impact due to the amounts of energy used to authenticate data on a blockchain otherwise known as minting. According to a University of Cambridge study, data showed that the minting of assets requires more electricity in one year than the entire country of Argentina.

With that said I had completely dismissed this novel and useful tech from being anything more than content creation for product. It’s so much more than that. What’s interesting is digital collectors and designers are building this amazing cultural movement that’s really changing the conversation for entertainment and fashion. While I am still very kinaesthetic with product you can touch and feel, this technology is seamlessly paving the future for creative capabilities. Creating new tools that can be utilised by a new generation of meta verse creators.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson

Andrew Thompson has over twenty years’ experience as a footwear Trend Forecaster and Design thought leader.

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