How RTFKT is Rewriting the Rules of Digital Fashion

At the intersection of digital innovation and mainstream culture, a revolutionary paradigm of art, technology, and fashion is emerging — elevating a niche interest into a significant cultural phenomenon. It’s in this transformative setting that RTFKT stands out, exemplifying the fusion of gaming aesthetics with technological innovation and digital fashion.

Marking two years since its acquisition by Nike in December 2021, RTFKT’s journey represents a breakthrough in the industry, successfully bridging the gap between traditional sportswear and the dynamic online landscape.

Together, they are breaking new ground, connecting virtual creativity with physical reality, while actively sculpting a new frontier in digital art and fashion.


The Genesis of RTFKT: The Making of a Digital Fashion Powerhouse

RTFKT’s inception in January 2020 marked a pivotal moment in the digital fashion industry. Founded by Benoit Pagotto, Chris Le, and Steven Vasilev, their collective expertise in gaming, crypto culture, and fashion converged to create a groundbreaking digital-first brand. Pagotto, transitioning from the high-end Parisian retail scene to marketing and esports, brought a blend of traditional and digital branding insights. Le’s rich background in game design, graphic design, and creative direction across various media platforms infused artistic diversity. Vasilev, a young entrepreneur, provided business acumen and insight into the digital market.

Their shared vision was ambitious yet clear: to craft a digital fashion brand that reimagines traditional industry norms. RTFKT envisioned digital sneakers and wearables as more than virtual items – they were to be new mediums for self-expression and identity in the digital era. Their initial creations, merging virtuality with tangibility, transcended conventional products, embodying a new artistic and cultural paradigm.

Early successes, like their collaboration with FEWOCiOUS, which saw NFT sneakers fetching over $7 million, catapulted RTFKT into prominence. This project not only established them in the digital art sphere but also signaled the potential of digital fashion. The subsequent partnership with Jeff Staples and the Meta-Pigeon NFTs broadened their impact, laying the groundwork for an expansive NFT-based ecosystem.

Collaborating with Takashi Murakami, RTFKT further fused high art with digital fashion, significantly contributing to the iconic Clone X project. This partnership broadened their scope from digital sneakers to an array of NFTs, including avatars and other metaverse assets, with digital wearables at the core.

Innovating Together: RTFKT’s Community Revolution

At the core of RTFKT’s ethos is a profound focus on community and co-creation, disrupting the traditional dynamics between brand and consumer. By engaging with their community on platforms like Twitter and Discord, RTFKT transforms consumers into active collaborators.

This inclusive approach empowers members to share ideas, participate in brand development, and even influence product design, thereby fostering a sense of ownership and pride among its followers. This strategy extends beyond standard brand loyalty tactics; it has become a cornerstone of RTFKT’s creative process, driving innovation and ensuring that their offerings resonate deeply with their audience.

By placing community at the forefront, RTFKT has created a solid dynamic, ever-evolving digital ecosystem. This community-centric model ultimately demonstrates how brands can leverage the power of collaboration to stay at the forefront of innovation and consumer engagement in the digital age.

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When Giants Collide: The RTFKT-Nike Alliance

The acquisition of RTFKT by Nike in 2021 marks a pivotal chapter in the narrative of digital fashion and technology. This strategic alliance blends Nike’s legacy in sportswear with RTFKT’s innovative digital creativity, forging a path into new realms of consumer experiences within the metaverse. The collaboration has led to groundbreaking initiatives like the Cryptokicks and the MNLTH series, showcasing the unique combination of physical and digital elements that they both offer.

This partnership is more than a mere expansion of Nike’s brand into digital territory; it’s a redefinition of the fashion landscape, embracing immersive digital experiences as integral to consumer interaction. The synergy between RTFKT’s digital-first approach and Nike’s global reach is pushing the boundaries of traditional fashion, showcasing the potential for innovative product lines and cutting-edge consumer experiences.

As RTFKT continues to evolve under Nike, this collaboration serves as a framework for future digital innovation, highlighting how established brands can adapt and thrive in the ever-changing digital era. It’s a visionary approach to brand development, setting a new standard for consumer engagement and interaction in the digital world.


Digital Horizons: The Ongoing Legacy of RTFKT

RTFKT’s story reaffirms an important assertion: the convergence of digital art, technology, and fashion is not a fleeting trend but a significant cultural transformation. As RTFKT continues to innovate under Nike’s wing, it stands as a symbol for the future of digital culture, heralding an era where virtual experiences, community co-creation, and digital expression are as integral to our lives as their physical counterparts.

And the implications of RTFKT’s success extend beyond the realms of fashion and art. It signals a broader shift in consumer engagement, where digital identity and interactivity play pivotal roles. It’s a forward-looking blueprint for how brands can navigate and thrive in an increasingly digitalized world.

RTFKT’s transformation from a digital fashion startup to a key player in Nike’s portfolio exemplifies the power of innovation and collaboration, paving the way for future trends in digital culture.


Founded in 2021, Fakewhale advocates the digital art market's evolution. Viewing NFT technology as a container for art, and leveraging the expansive scope of digital culture, Fakewhale strives to shape a new ecosystem in which art and technology become the starting point, rather than the final destination.

FW LOG is a curated media platform investigating the junction point between technology and art. It provides in-depth insights through the Fakewhale ecosystem, featuring the latest industry news, comprehensive curation, interviews, show spotlights and trends shaping tomorrow’s art market.

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