Gucci sneakers usually retail for well over €500, but this week the luxury fashion giant has started selling a pair for €12.99. The catch? They're digital only.
The Virtual 25 sneaker is a chunky slime-green, bubblegum-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.
Users can "try on" the sneakers – available via in-app purchase from either the Gucci or Wanna AR apps – and wear them in other virtual worlds, including VR Chat, a huge multiplayer online game, and Roblox, a gaming platform whose valuation hit €32 billion after the company's IPO, on March 10th.
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 it began offering AR functionality, allowing customers to virtually try on sneakers and watches.
Known for its digital innovation, the brand earlier this year released Pokémon Go avatars wearing Gucci x North Face costumes, which were geolocated near retail outlets. Its rival Louis Vuitton collaborated with League of Legends to create virtual trophy cases in 2019.
The timing of this latest product roll-out is fortuitous (or perhaps deliberate) for Gucci. Spending extraordinary amounts of money on items that exist only digitally has been in the headlines lately, as the speculative market around nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, heats up, with digital artworks and NBA trading cards selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. But Gucci’s virtual sneakers are not NFTs.
The sneakers were developed in collaboration with Wanna, a Belarus-based fashion technology company. Wanna's chief executive, 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 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.