A virtual steal: the digital Gucci sneakers for sale at $17.99 – The Guardian


Luxury brand’s first ‘digital’ shoes can be worn only in virtual or augmented worlds online, but some believe the concept will take off across fashion


Fri 19 Mar 2021 01.32 EDT

Gucci sneakers usually retail for well over $500, but this week the luxury fashion giant has started selling a pair for $17.99. The catch? They’re digital only.

The Virtual 25 sneaker is a chunky slime green, bubble-gum pink and sky blue shoe that wouldn’t look out of place in a robot’s orthotics clinic and can only be “worn” via augmented and virtual reality.

Available via in-app purchase from either the Gucci or Wanna AR apps, users can “try on” the sneakers and wear them in other virtual worlds, including VR Chat, a massive multiplayer online game, and Roblox, a gaming platform whose valuation hit $38bn US after the company’s IPO on 10 March.

The shoes are Gucci’s “first digital model”, but the brand is not new to the world of in-app purchases. The fashion house already sells digital arcade games in its app, and in January began offering AR functionality, allowing customers to virtually try on sneakers and watches.

Known for its digital innovation, the brand earlier this year released Pokemon GO avatars wearing Gucci x North Face costumes, which were geolocated near retail outlets. Meanwhile, rival Louis Vuitton collaborated with League of Legends to create virtual trophy cases in 2019.

Gucci’s virtual sneakers arrive as the speculative market around non-fungible tokens heats up. Photograph: Gucci

The timing of this latest product roll out is fortuitous (or perhaps deliberate) for Gucci. Spending extraordinary amounts of money on items that only exist digitally has been in the headlines lately, as the speculative market around non-fungible tokens (NFTs) heats up, with digital artworks and NBA trading cards selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, Gucci’s virtual sneakers are not NFTs.

The sneakers were developed in collaboration with Belarus-based fashion technology Wanna. Wanna’s CEO, Sergey Arkhangelski, was bullish about the future of these kinds of products, telling Business of Fashion that “in five or maybe 10 years, a relatively big chunk of fashion brands’ revenue will come from digital products”.

Childrenswear is also a significant category for Gucci, and more than half the users of Roblox, one of the platforms on which the new sneakers can be worn, are children under the age of 13. So perhaps this development is actually parental wish-fulfilment: a pair of sneakers that kids cannot grow out of.













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