Founded in 2013 out of Kory and Mal Stevens’ two-bedroom apartment, TAFT sells high-end boots and shoes that range in price from $275 to $350. Now, they’re releasing an NFT footwear collection customers can only get by purchasing from an early June release.
The NFTs will sell for $300, payable in the cryptocurrency Solana or US dollars at launch. When customers purchase the NFT, they will receive a limited-edition sneaker that matches the art from NFT—images include a randomized a winged animal (a hummingbird, crane, duck, or winged tiger) on the side of a white shoe as well as leather accent colors and embroidery differences.
“Every opportunity to gamify has been used,” says TAFT co-founder and CEO Kory Stevens. “When people understand how it works, they get even more excited than when they hear that TAFT is doing an NFT project.”
Each NFT will also include access to future launches and promotions, but the real-life shoe is the centerpiece of the NFT’s utility. TAFT is partnering with Utah-based web3 company Remi Labs to launch the NFT.
There will be a short window for buying and selling so people can still buy in if they miss the initial mint or they want a shoe with different features. After that initial trading window, there will be a redemption period where people can go online, enter their shoe size and shipping address, and the manufacturing process will begin.
The minting process will happen on the Solana blockchain. Stevens and the Remi Labs founders say that Solana, which was also used for the gm groundhogs project, was picked for transaction speed and lower environmental impacts than some other blockchains like Ethereum—in March, Solana claimed that the average Solana transaction uses 2,707 joules, less energy than three Google searches. Given the sustainability questions that already exist around TAFT’s use of leather, Stevens says it was important to him and his customers to keep that environmental impact low.
The ability for NFT owners to have something tangible is important to the Remi Labs founders, who were also the founders of the gm groundhogs NFT project. Each groundhog NFT came with a corresponding sweatshirt that holders could wear to rep their NFTs and Stevens agrees it will make a big difference that the product and NFT originate from a shoe company, as opposed to a web3 company simply producing clothes to correspond with NFTs.
“I see a lot of web3 native businesses that start to try to do sneakers, and jackets, and shirts, and stuff that match your NFT,” he says. “We have eight years of experience delivering product and delighting our customers. There’s not really a trust issue. Everyone knows that we make good shoes. Everyone knows that we thrive on great customer service. Even though this seems like a huge task ahead, our customers trust us and believe in us, so we’re going to make it happen,” Stevens says.
Nike, which purchased RTFKT to sell cryptokicks to the metaverse, is one standout example of a clothing company entering the web3 space, to strong success thus far. Doug Barnett, co-founder of Remi Labs, says he hasn’t really looked at Nike or RTFKT as an “archetype” for the TAFT NFT, but he and Stevens agree that it gives them confidence that this space is “moving in the right direction.”
Stevens believes TAFT can even push the boundaries on what is being done by larger companies involved in sports and streetwear like Nike. He believes TAFT’s size, which is smaller than the retail giant Nike, could be a benefit.
“I think that what they’ve done gives me the confidence to even try it, but I think in that sneaker-native space, that hype culture, that streetwear space, it’s very expected and comfortable,” he says. “In my space, this is really, really new. I haven’t seen anyone at our level of quality and our usual price point, kind of in that mid-tier, high-fashion space, no one’s done it. I view what they did like it was successful in their niche. Now I’m going to try it.”
TAFT has plans for future drops as well that expand on current collections. Remi Labs will continue to work with TAFT as long as Stevens wants, but it will still be up to Stevens and TAFT to continue to build its community. And that community is pretty passionate about TAFT’s products.
So far, the company has 633,000 followers on Instagram, and has started to build a Discord where people can talk TAFT, fashion, and NFTs.
“Their customers are raving fans, and now they get to interact with each other and show off their shoes, and talk to one another about what they like about this pair or this pair,” Barnett says.