Legendary Fashion House Balmain Paris has been working with Space Runners to create NFT digital versions of their awe-inspiring Unicorn sneakers. What does a partnership like this mean for fans of both brands – and what does this move reveal about the future of both fashion and NFTs?
It’s surreal. It’s a shoe. It’s Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain Unicorn.
The Baroque-inspired design of this sneaker collection is enough to make you think we’re in a whole new renaissance. You may be right: this line from Balmain Paris is poised to revolutionize how we interact with the fashion items we love.
This is all thanks to a partnership with Space Runners, the leading metaverse fashion brand. On March 22, Starting Fall 2023, Space Runners will be dropping an NFT collection based around the Unicorn shoes, allowing holders to wear the shoes in their favorite metaverses, video games, and more.
But is this industry-shifting innovation, or just a way for people to flex online? Let’s dive into it.
For a fashion house as prestigious as Balmain, this leap into digital wear has prompted the fashion community to consider its role in the future of NFT. This is the kind of move that pushes the needle and it will be interesting to see which luxury brands embrace the digital revolution next.
To wrap our heads around this all – and what people can get out of this digital shoe – we sat down to talk to Won Soh, the co-Founder & CEO of Space Runners.
“We’re proud of what Balmain and Space Runners have created,” Soh says. “The excitement level for the team is through the roof.”
The original design of the Unicorn shoes gave the Space Runners team much to work with creatively. From the jump, Soh had known that this was the perfect line to bring into the digital world.
“Juxtaposing baroque and Renaissance style designs to web three,” he says, “is an interesting contrast. By layering on these futuristic, metaverse traits, the contrast becomes even greater. I think people will enjoy this irony as they interact with both the physical and the digital versions of these shoes.”
Balmain have been fashion leaders for the better part of the century – and the house’s influence in Paris and beyond is matched by few. For Space Runners to create something that could mirror the quality of designer Rousteing’s original sneaker line, they would have to spare no effort.
“We’ve had to establish ourselves,” Soh says, “as one of the most high-fidelity players in this digital fashion market. After a year and a half of putting our name out there, the fashion brands now realize how talented our team is.”
When Soh says his team’s work is “high-fidelity,” what does he mean?
For digital fashion to be viable, each piece has to be designed and optimized to be used in 3D environments, such as in a video game or in the augmented reality of a smartphone filter. The challenge – as is the nature of 3D rendering – lies in balancing looks against performance.
To allow their digital shoes to be compatible with as wide a range of metaverses as possible, they’ve opted to create something as high-fidelity as possible, which allows them to scale back the model based on the particular software and hardware the shoes are being used on. This ensures performance, while also making sure that the Balmain Unicorns are always the best looking item in the digital universes they inhabit.
“For fashion brands,” Soh says, “this is probably the most important key decision factor in assessing whether they want to access the digital space.”
The NFT drop will transform the Unicorn into a “phygital” product – existing both IRL and virtually. This means that fans of Rousteing’s innovative creation will get to experience the shoes on two distinct levels, heightening their connection to the beloved Balmain brand.
“We’re not just interacting with fashion in the physical world,” Soh says. “People are spending more time digitally and how you represent yourself digitally will be equally as important as in the real world in the future – that is what we firmly believe.”
As screen time goes up globally, so do the importance of brands such as Space Runners in giving people the means to express themselves through fashion. The tech behind these high-fidelity clothing items allows people to do just that, in stunning ways.
From wings made of fire, to rockets that allow holders to fly in their favorite metaverses, the possibilities of how these shoes can manifest digitally is unlimited.
Beyond the prospect of these digital Unicorn shoes themselves, the tech behind them is bound to transform the way everyday consumers experience fashion ecommerce.
Soh points out the difficulties most clothing brands experience while selling online. Customers can’t try on products when they’re browsing online stores – which leads to abandoned shopping carts, returns, and general indecision.
The tech behind Space Runners digital kicks can help these brands show consumers how their clothing will look and fit on them. It’s not ecommerce, it’s metacommerce, and another example of how viable these innovations are in a world shifting towards Web 3.
For now, the fashion world’s eyes are on the soon-to-drop Unicorn NFTs, a powerful collaboration between Space Runners and Balmain Paris.
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