Influential luxury brand Gucci might make everything from suits to shoulder bags, but perhaps their most notable impact to the cultural zeitgeist has been through their footwear.
Their iconic horsebit loafers, their insanely popular Gucci Ace sneakers, and every rapper’s favourite house shoe – the Gucci flip-flop – over the years, Gucci’s consistently been ahead of the curve when it comes to footwear.
But their latest offering might just be their most forward-thinking yet. The 100-year-old Italian maison has collaborated with Bulgarian innovative augmented reality (AR) start-up Wanna on their newest, wildest and most affordable sneaker yet: the $12 Gucci Virtual 25s.
The catch? They don’t exist. Well, at least not physically.
Available through Wanna or Gucci’s own app, purchasing the Virtual 25s simply allows you to visualise the sneakers using Wanna’s AR technology on your own feet. The sneakers only exist virtually (hence the name), making them more akin to an NFT.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, NFTs have exploded in popularity recently, becoming the next big thing in tech, finance and art. NFT stands for ‘non-fungible token’ (which really doesn’t tell you what it is): essentially, an NFT is a digital file whose unique identity and ownership are verified on a blockchain. NFTs can be anything, but the craze has mostly centred around digital art – NFTs being held up as the future of art collecting.
In this way, you could consider the Virtual 25s to be like an interactive piece of art. It’s clearly something that’s quite out-of-the-box, with potentially huge implications for the future of luxury and fashion – but not everyone’s convinced.
“The world is mad… people are needing stimulus checks and food banks [while others] are buying digital trainers to take a selfie with,” one Instagram commenter has bemoaned.
Others have more of a problem with the shoe’s design: “if these kicks are digital-only, why not make them really special? Something animated, materials you don’t see in real life, novelty functionalities… this seems like a wasted opportunity,” another relates.
Many just think they’re ugly and overpriced.
Wanna has previously collaborated with sneaker brands such as Puma and Reebok as well as luxury retailer Farfetch to create digital fitting experiences. AR try-ons are by no means a recent phenomenon, but Wanna’s step into the NFT world with Gucci is rather unique.
“In five or maybe 10 years a relatively big chunk of fashion brands’ revenue will come from digital products… Our goal as a company is to actually supersede the product photos… and substitute it for something which is way more engaging and closer to offline shopping,” Wanna co-founder and CEO Sergey Arkhangelskiy tells Business of Fashion.
Time will tell if other players in the luxury world will embrace similar NFT and AR technology and start selling virtual products like this. People already collect high-end timepieces and never wear them… What’s next – a virtual Rolex?