Yes, NFT's are here to stay as the most recent NFT.NYC had over 5,000 NFT holders and enthusiasts attending as compared to the 460 attendees in 2019. On top of an event filled with speakers, conferences, as well as parties, one hugely anticipated portion, was the awards for different categories within the NFT space. Kinda like the Grammy's of NFT's.
One NFT brand that we've been closely following is RTFKT (pronounced ARTEFACT). They were officially founded in January of last year, though its founders — Benoit Pagotto, Steven Vasilev and Chris Le — had begun posting content a year earlier, creating digitally-manipulated images designed to spread like wildfire across the internet. On their Instagram feed, Air Jordans appear to levitate in response to a Gucci-monogrammed Infinity Gauntlet; Kanye West and DJ Khaled appear side-by-side in blown-up, tricked-out footwear, and a PlayStation 5-branded sneaker (no, not the awful Zara one) is taken for a debut stroll. Though the shoes defy all logic (and, in many cases, verge onto the IP of existing sneaker brands), RTFKT’s posts have swiftly amassed a growing audience, fascinated by these virtual products and eager to obtain them.
The virtual fashion collective RTFKT Studios has made no secret of its ambition to bring a ‘hype’ sensibility to the world of NFTs. They've described themselves as a “new age Supreme, for a digital audience,” and laid out their ambitious plans for a series of high-profile collaborators over the course of this year.
With what they have been delivering in the space it is no surprise that they were awarded Best Metaverse Fashion brand during this year's NFT.NYC. With their biggest launch of the year, CloneX (a 20,000 avatar project that is fully 3D rigged and metaverse-ready) just around the corner, the future is looking bright for them to truly achieve "Supreme" level cult status in the metaverse.
So far, they've had collabs for virtual sneakers with the designer Jeff Staple and the crypto-artist Fewocious, which raised $3.1m USD in seven minutes. And for their CloneX project, they dropped a huge bomb shell, revealing their most top tier collaborator to date: the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, who has joined with RTFKT to add a few unique avatars to the collection.
Murakami has contributed designs to the eyes, mouths, helmets, clothes and ‘traits’ of the characters, incorporating signature elements of his well-established, cartoonish aesthetic.
The project is a clear homage to the CryptoPunks series, developed by Larva Labs as one of the earliest NFT projects in 2017. As with that original work, the randomised creation of the characters will result in some ‘rare’ combinations of features — which, RTFKT hopes, will become future collector’s items (as a point of reference, the rarest CryptoPunks characters have sold for over $7.5 million USD each — and one was even at the centre of an alleged half-billion dollar publicity stunt earlier this week.)
Unlike the CryptoPunks, though, RTFKT’s Avatars will be fully 3D rigged models, meaning that their owners could, feasibly, use them as AR filters on camera, in Zoom meetings, or in games.
RTFKT have also begun collaborating with various video gaming engines, which will enable players’ in-game avatars to wear their purchases. So far, every pair released by the brand has sold out, even at a price tag that averages $15,000 USD, and have sold for as much as $40,000 USD. The brand is now exploring a more accessibly priced version, which will retail for around $100 USD, and will be created in limited runs of 100 virtual pairs.
Their success — and the scale of their ambitions — is a testament to the growing power of virtual brands, which are capitalizing on our increasingly digital existence. And their ascent has been accelerated by the COVID-19 lockdowns, as consumers have been forced to spend ever-increasing amounts of time living, working and socializing online. “We got lucky with the pandemic, in a sense,” says Pagotto. “It reinforced our vision, which otherwise might have been a bit premature. Now the fashion industry is starting to take a deep interest in virtual spaces.”
We also saw a lot of notable NFT creators and celebrities at NYC.NFT. These included, Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple (the artist behind the most expensive NFT ever), director Quentin Tarantino, YouTuber Logan Paul, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, and Morning Brew’s Dan Toomey.
The conference’s popularity reflects the rapid growth of the NFT market. Last quarter, more than $10 billion worth of NFTs were sold, up 700% from the quarter before, per DappRadar. We expect this to continue to grow as more brands enter the space and try to gain a foothold in the growing NFT and Metaverse ecosystem.