Combining video games and fashion is more than just a thing; many millennials want their style to not only to be defined by what they wear but also by what they experience. Listening to the demands of the millennial consumer is RTFKT. Pronounced artifact, the London based startup, made up of a collective of gaming and fashion creators, have come up with a different type sneaker. A type where fashion meets AR and gaming.
Launched in February 2020, RTFKT received early funding from Silicon Valley VCs, including GFR Fund and Galaxy Interactive via its Galaxy EOS VC Fund, a partnership with EOSIO software development company, Block.one. It operates like a game studio mixed with a luxury artisan workshop. The gaming culture and skins inspired RTFKT. Promising to be unlike anything that exists today, the RTFKT team shares with FashNerd.com how they are making a name for themselves with their next-gen sneakers.
Making Custom Art Wearable
Bringing unique custom-crafted sneakers to gamers in both the digital and physical worlds, RTFKT co-founders Benoit Pagotto, Steven “Zaptio” Vasilev and Chris “ClegFX” Le have come up with “Hypercrafted” sneakers inspired by popular video game characters. With 3D and mixed reality at its core, the augmented sneaker and fashion brand has coined the term ‘hypercraft’ to describe its unique blended approach to the digital and physical creation of its products.
Rooted in video games, the sneakers are mainly made for esports players, video game streamers and fans. The RTFKT’s custom-designed sneakers are available in two designs. The first is Bones a design inspired by the “Ghost” in Call Of Duty and “Skull Trooper” in Fortnite. The second one is Racoon Force; a creation spurred on by Animal Crossing. Every sneaker starts on RTFKT’s virtual production line and uses advanced 3D modelling and game engine technology to create digital content and designs. For the physical designs, the studio pushes customization to its limits, creating fresh new looks inspired by popular characters and brands in the gaming world, or completely re-inventing them by adding mods and unique 3D printed elements.
“Using 3D design allows us to create and design concept sneakers with unlimited creativity and imagination.”
“Using 3D design allows us to create and design concept sneakers with unlimited creativity and imagination,” said co-founder Benoit Pagotto, who has worked for the biggest fashion brands and led the Fnatic eSports brand evolution into a lifestyle. Pagotto continues: “We believe the future of fashion isn’t about mass production but virtualization and empowerment. Social media is an amazing tool for us to build a fanbase and test our designs before producing them. This, combined with our made-to-order dynamic, ensures we do not create unnecessary, wasteful products, and focus our craft on what excites and hypes people.“
Taking A Fresh New Look At Sneakers
Created to excite sneakerheads and gamers, Steven (Zaptio) Vasilev, co-founder and CEO of RTFKT explained that one of the reasons why they came up with these new sneakers was because they believed that the sneaker industry has reached a stagnant stage. “People are ready and want to see something truly new and fresh – new shapes, new materials, new experiences,” said Vasilev, a man who has built his reputation making exquisite custom sneakers.
He continues: “Being sneakerheads and gamers ourselves, we saw an opportunity to merge those worlds and establish a new way to design, mod and create sneakers and fashion items. We are building a platform for the next generation of creatives to learn and participate in the process of sneaker creation”.
“We are building a platform for the next generation of creatives to learn and participate in the process of sneaker creation.”
Innovatively using AR and blockchain technology, RTKFT has found a way to create unique and tradeable digital representations of the physical shoes they manufacture. On this Sam Englebardt, Managing Partner at Galaxy Interactive shared: “The founders’ impressive understanding of digital and social distribution and their prominent roles in the eSports and streetwear markets, positions RTFKT extremely well to unlock an entirely new market.”
One thing that stood out for me, besides the tech, is RTFKT’s customer focus approach. The team posts their designs on Instagram, Snap or Tik Tok to get feedback and validate user interest before crafting them in the workshop for limited release. The strategy has been successful with some designs going viral and generating millions of impressions before manufacturing begins.
Are You Ready to Explore Something Fun and Fresh for Your Wardrobe?
Taking a closer look, at each design, you will realize that it follows a rarity system that dictates the level of innovation and customization required to produce the physical product and the scarcity of the sneaker. All sneaker sales come with augmented reality graphics and animations, allowing users to visualize the designs before receiving the physical sneaker. This sustainable ‘no stock’ policy limits production costs because there is little to no waste as all sneakers are made to order
Although they quickly sold out, the sneakers are still available for pre-order at www.rtfkt.com. New designs and items are expected to be added regularly.
Founding editor-in-chief of FashNerd.com, Muchaneta is currently one of the leading influencers writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology. She has also given talks at Premiere Vision, Munich Fabric Start and Pure London, to name a few. Besides working as a fashion innovation consultant for various fashion companies like LVMH Atelier, Muchaneta has also contributed to Vogue Business, is a senior contributor at The Interline and an associate lecturer at London College of Fashion, UAL.