Italian luxury fashion house, Gucci, is out with its latest product – an $11.99 pair of sneakers. But before you start a mad dash to your computer to see where you can buy them, the sneakers come with a caveat: they can only be worn virtually.
Working with Wanna on the Gucci Virtual 25s
The Gucci Virtual 25s – the name of the sneakers – was produced in collaboration with fashion AR startup, Wanna. This is not the first time both brands are collaborating: last year, they worked on a feature in the Gucci app that allows users to virtually try on timepieces before purchase. Before that, Wanna had developed an AR technology that allowed users to try on the Ace sneakers on the same app.
Gucci is also not the only brand Wanna has worked with to develop an AR alternative to testing products physically. So far, it has been used by Adidas, Lacoste, Puma, All Birds and Farfetch, amongst others.
However, this is the fashion AR company’s first original digital product, designed by creative director Alessandro Michele.
Why did Gucci make the Virtual 25s?
Gucci’s latest sneakers, which goes for $11.99 on its app but can be purchased for an even lower price of $8.99 on Wanna’s app, can only be worn digitally. Unlike the other collaborations between both brands which were attempts to digitize the shopping process, the Virtual 25s will not make it to the buyer’s feet in real life.
Wanna gives an idea behind this decision. On its site, it states that one of the goals of the project is to “engage Gen Z customers with Gucci brand and products.” As a luxury brand, Gucci might be out of the reach of the younger generation, but instead of ignoring this demographic with the hopes that they can be targeted when they are older and wealthier, it is reaching out to them now with an affordable alternative that they can purchase for gaming and social media posts.
However, others think that this is Gucci’s way of entering into the world of NFTs, which has seen an explosion in popularity in the last couple of weeks.
What are NFTs?
NFT means Non-Fungible Tokens. In simple terms, they are assets that exist in a digital-only form that can be bought and sold. This BBC article gives an in-depth explanation of what they are and how they work.
On the 12th of March 2021, Christie’s announced that it had auctioned off a digital collage by an artist named Beeple for nearly $70m, in an unprecedented sale of a digital artwork that fetched more money than physical works by many better-known artists. Earlier, musician Grimes sold digital pieces of her artwork for more than $6m.
There is some confusion on whether this is just another digital fad that will see people losing their funds, especially as NFTs do not grant you exclusivity: you are the recognised owner, but whatever NFT you purchase can be seen by everyone all over the world and shared on the internet without restrictions.
But Wanna co-founder and CEO, Sergey Arkhangelskiy, is not fazed. “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,” he told Business of Fashion.
However, he is cautious of the NFT market, citing the hurdles in setting up bitcoin wallets and purchasing on blockchain for consumers. “It’s not very user friendly,” he said. As for the development of digital products, “we’re on the very early stages of this.”