Episode 32 – RTFKT’s Clone X: A Metaverse fashion stepping stone
Throughout 2021 with all its NFT mania one brand has risen to the challenge of uniting the worlds of streetwear, blockchain and gamer culture. That brand is RTFKT. To call it an NFT brand is almost to do it a disservice for this is a next generation Metaverse blue chip in waiting. And in this episode we’re going to explore why this is and why the Clone x drop is the most hotly anticipated drop of the entire year.
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If you were connected to this space in any meaningful way the last 12 months you will have been exposed to the mania around PFPs, or profile pics. 2D avatars with magical membership properties, some of which made it all the way to Sothebys, Christies, even all the way to Visa. Many believed this was a bubble with a horrible splat of a finale on the horizon. But the sector has refused to die, drawing in more and more known faces such as Mike Tyson, Stephen Curry, Steve Harvey, Logan Paul and Banks from the Faze eSports team. And what that list should tell you is that these avatars are now firmly embedded in culture. Many are sceptical of PFPs but you can see them as a form of social signalling. Like a Rolex or a nice car but crucially they allow owners to express their allegiance to a particular set of ideas or philosophies whilst simultaneously expressing their individuality. And that’s all well and good but the scope is currently limited. What I’m seeing right now is the mashing together of gaming, sneaker culture, sports, art, music and fashion into one chaotic, immersive, entertainment proposition that we can loosely call the metaverse. And it’s this intersection of all these rich spaces that RTFKT calls home.
But let’s take a step back. RTFKT was created by three amigos who joined forces at the start of the pandemic inspired by the idea of reimagining the future of fashion, sneakers, and identity placing a huge emphasis on the creators themselves. Benoit Pagotto, Chris Le,and Steven Vasilev are the bright sparks behind the project and they formerly supplied game concepts and designs to game companies and fashion brands. They combine high level 3D animation across more traditional platforms like Cinema 4D but increasingly using Unreal Engine, there’s also NFTs and augmented reality but you can collect and own physical items as well.
And the response to RTFKT has been immense. The FEWOCiOUS x RTFKT sneaker NFT collaboration drop generated $3 million, selling out their virtual sneaker editions at $3,000, $5,000, and $10,000 levels. There was another massive drop with the legendary Jeff Staple but along the way there have been just insane creations like the Cyber Sneaker. And yes, they made a real version of this. Want to try on the sneakers on SnapChat. Yup you can do that too. See thh thing is, while we can imagine a Metaverse like the one in Ready Player One, thanks Mr Spielberg, the reality is that most of us are not going to be spending extended periods of time in one. Not yet anyway. RTFKT’s clear market advantage lies in understanding what the in-between phase looks like. Social signalling made easy thanks to Snapchat. Fashion with a near zero carbon footprint. This makes sense. If you want a physical shoe there are limited forging windows and NFTs can only be redeemed once. But this doesn’t diminish their value. RTFKT continues to work to add value to long-time owners and collectors with additional privileges like early access to drops.
But the drops, the artist collabs, the meaningful partnerships with industry minnows Epic Games… that was just a precursor to the most ambitious project drop by far. One with a gazillion attributes, gorgeous textures and a metaverse ready character you, me, anyone can jump into and get metaversing straight away. Because the Metaverse is where digital fashion takes flight. But I suspect they weren’t originally thinking about pfp’s, but following the success of Bored Ape Yacht Club, in hindsight, it was inevitable. The result was Clone X: codename AKIRA.
RTFKT have been teasing the designs for CloneX for months now and the manga roots are clear. But so too is the level of detail that has gone into the design work. And this is a feature of RTFKT drops, all the way through from MetaPigeons to the Punks Shoes. There are rumours of an extended world for CloneX owners to play in because let’s face it, people need utility, they need to be able to just get up and go. Every day we sit here at our desks, think about cameras and lenses and how to turn our ideas into visual entertainment. And everyday we become more and more aware that our future is going to be digital, that location scouting is going to be browsing the Unreal Marketplace. That I’m going to be spending most of my time inside a motion capture suit, puppeteering my various digital avatars to the extent that maybe this meat sack version of myself will cease to be important anymore.
PFPs, Profile Pic collections are amazing things. They create tribes, they create a sense of belonging and they create their own internal culture. But it’s hard to get them to travel successfully from one platform to another. So RTFKT designed their own one.
The result: Clone X, a manga inspired, full 3D avatar project. One built from the ground up to be your digital identity in the metaverse. And one leveraging the heft and clout of RTFKTs already legendary reputation. This is like Supreme dropping an NFT collection. It’s just got that legitimacy about it. There will be 20,000 of them, half of which will only be made available to owners of previous RTFKT nfts and while they’ll be nice items to host in your wallet the real fun comes when you can create your own value in the asset itself. We’re just beginning to see this idea of superstar pfp’s creating meaningful value above and beyond the intrinsic rarity of the asset itself. Jenkins the Valet has been signed by CAA and UTA just signed up star NFT collector OXb1. So talent agencies are starting to take note.
Once you embrace the idea that the physical limitations of IRL are no longer important and that a Travis Scott concert in Fortnite might have been the most important music event of Lockdown then you’re beginning to think the right way. The metaverse is sold as a place but really it’s a state of mind. And it requires you to flick a simple switch in your mind. One with two states. Yes and no. The metaverse is a yes culture. Yes you can, yes, that’s possible. The meatspace is a no culture. I know where I’d rather be.
RTFKT is often compared to Supreme but there’s one big difference. RTFKT is inclusive, this is a brand uniquely forged in the fires of blockchain and there’s room for everyone. The community is the thing. And that’s not just platitudes. Go hang in their discord, ask questions, get involved. Their legacy drops might be too expensive for you but CloneX is the first step in opening up the RTFKT universe to everyone and you have a chance to see it now. I can’t wait to start piloting a CloneX from the metaverse, bringing these stories to you from the true frontier of what’s happening here, not perpetuating the same tired mechanisms of web2. Design, culture, identity and value. It’s RTFKTs life blood and if the recent Mekaverse drop is anything to go by, this world is ready and extremely hungry for it.
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