NFT Brand RTFKT Raises $8M, Plans to Build Digital Marketplace – WWD

Hot crypto fashion brand RTFKT Studios just scored $8 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, the company announced Tuesday.

“We’re super proud of how we curated our fundraise, assembling a unique team from gaming, fashion, tech and art to create the future of fashion for the metaverse,” cofounder Benoit Pagotto told WWD.

Known for its digital sneaker collaborations, the business now has the fuel to add more staffing and plans are in the works to develop its own online marketplace.

Currently, RTFKT operates with just a skeleton crew of two full-time staffers — which is notable, given the hype that’s been coalescing around the brand over its NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.

The blockchain-based technology has proof of ownership and authenticity baked right in, making it a subject of intense interest for the worlds of digital art, fashion and collectibles, all of which have seen a flurry of activity over high-value NFTs.

Among them was RTFKT’s collaboration with 18-year-old artist Fewocious on all-digital NFT sneakers, which drew more than $3 million in March. The start-up followed up with another collab, this time with digital couture house The Fabricant, for a collection that included earrings, dresses and sneakers. It offered some 223 digital goods, which sold out in less than 12 minutes total.

This year, the business has already racked up $4.5 million in revenue, far exceeding the $600,000 it pulled in over all of 2020. Now, with new funding, it’s set to hire a team of engineers and designers, as well as gaming experts to further flesh out the business.

Pagotto describes the company as “99 percent digital, 1 percent physical, born in the metaverse” — a term that can mean a lot of different things, depending on the context. But generally, it alludes to alternate digital realities that can include augmented reality, virtual reality and other digital online platforms.

The start-up founder sees plenty of opportunity for RTFKT, especially with the latest funding.

“It’s a unique seed round for a new type of company … a fashion company born from gaming,” he continued. “It’s our culture, and [we] are doing things differently. We’re super exclusive, yet have an open source approach to our content. We work with creators and empower them and give them revenue share.

“NFT allows us to combine all our expertise and community to create the future without having to worry about legacy or how things are done today,” he explained.

Later this year, Pagotto plans to release a new platform that will have “secondary marketplace elements,” he added. “We’ll highlight community projects and artists, allowing [them] to drop on our platform using features we develop for RTFKT projects, incubate and fund some of them, giving some of our iconic designs to re-skin and use in games.”

The gaming aspect may be key. Currently, buying an NFT sneaker or dress doesn’t allow the owner to do much with it, other than look at the screen and admire it. But soon, owning a genuine piece of digital couture that can be authenticated and shown off in the metaverse — in places like games — could be more commonplace.

Apparently, the venture capital world agrees.

“RTFKT is leading the way in building the bridge between digital and physical fashion,” Jonathan Lai, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz said in a statement. “As we spend more time in virtual worlds, I believe that we will care just as much about our digital sneakers and handbags as we do our physical ones.

“Over the past decade, games have evolved from entertainment into social networks — for many folks today, games are the new mall and sports bar,” he said.

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