Cult & Rain, the label founded by former Cerutti design director George Yang, dives into the skin of the NFT market with a collection that marries utility with luxury design. The move suggests it could become a go-to route for industry veterans.
The worlds of fashion and crypto have been largely separated as traditional creators have avoided engaging with the metaverse. However, the resume of George Yang, the founder of the first crypto luxury house, Cult & Rain, is about as traditional as it gets for a fashion designer. Before becoming design director at Cerutti in Paris, he designed at Costume International and Guy Laroche. He also helped revive Theory under Andrew Rosen after the acquisition of Fast Retailing in 2004.
The menswear designer first entered the metaverse, driven by his love of sneakers, which he has been collecting diligently for years. Sneakers are at the forefront of digital wearables in the Metaverse. Currently working by digital fashion brand RTFKT is spread across the metaverse, including the $3.1 million worth of NFT sneakers that sold out in just six minutes this fall. RTFKT was acquired by Nike in December.
“If you look at RTFKT, they paved the way and they opened up the market for everyone. If you see RTFK as Supreme, Cult & Rain is Balenciaga,” Yang said. Nike CEO John Donahoe said the acquisition of RTFKT was another step towards Nike’s digital transformation. Meanwhile, rival Adidas recently collaborated with The Bored Ape Yacht Club and Prada on NFT launchesshowing the versatility of streetwear when it comes to digital clothing.
On February 7, Cult & Rain will drop 2,000 NFTs redeemable for an identical pair of luxury Italian-made sneakers. The drop will include four sneaker designs in five unique colorways each, totaling 20 unique colorways. One hundred pairs of each color were created. All four sneaker designs were made by native NFT artists, including The Heart Project by Aidan Cullen (@HeartNFTs), Sean Williams (@1artsometimes), Sophie Sturdevant (@sophiesaidso) and Javier Arres (@javierarres).
“The initial concept for the product came from putting a chip inside a shoe,” Yang said. “I’ve collected hundreds of pairs of sneakers throughout my life, and when I moved from Paris to New York, I must have sold a lot of them.” Aiming to sell on marketplaces like StockX, some of his pairs came back as counterfeits. “It broke my heart, because I had kept them, admiring them as a work of art. It gave me the idea to try to find a way to avoid this, and that’s how I jumped into blockchain.
Aidan Cullen, the photographer and director who founded the Heart Project, a community-run NFT design studio, worked with Yang to engage the NFT community and ask select members to design a sneaker print. The two met through mutual friends.
“When I entered the NFT space, there were certain founding principles that I wanted to follow – namely art, creativity, love and community,” Yang said. Based on these fundamental values, he wanted to explore collaborations, to ensure that art and creativity are respected.
And, as he dug deeper into the Web3 space, he realized that the power lies within the community. “I love the idea of Discord because the platform is built by the community,” Yang said. So unlike big name partnerships with celebrities and musicians, typical of major NFT fashion brand launches, Yang wanted to work with local NFT artists.
Similarly, Emily Miller, founder of the DTC OffLimits brand, committed to the Web3 space and named authenticity and community engagement as key pillars for brands entering the space. “If they really want to be in this space, [opt for] a crypto-native project that’s heavily focused on building something useful, new, and exciting, rather than a trendy NFT drop that ticks the box and says you’re part of Web3. [The latter] is often not well noticed by the native community and early adopters. »
Within three days of Yang pitching his project to the NFT community, over 150 designs had been submitted, votes for the top five designs had been collected, and Cullen and Yang had named their top pick. “I was tired of taking care of [traditional] advisory board, wholesale buyers dictating what was right and wrong,” Yang said. “And I was tired of producing collections 6-8 times a year. I had been doing this for 17 years, never missing a season of my career. This model is broken.
The resulting Cult & Rain collection and the methodology behind it addresses some key issues in the NFT space regarding counterfeits. Many brands have launched blockchain authentication platforms to simply authenticate their products. For example, the Aura consortium of the LVMH group uses blockchain to track and trace luxury goods from raw materials to point of sale and, eventually, to second-hand markets. By initially purchasing an ultra-rare Cult & Rain NFT that can be exchanged for the physical sneakers, the NFT acts as a token and the sneakers are immune to counterfeits. Each is made to order for each customer.
“It’s an ultra-rare model, because I’ve produced too many collections in my career,” Yang said. “I just don’t want to produce mass collections anymore. It is not necessary any more.
Talking about the drop methodology, Andy Griffiths, CMO at Cult & Rain, compared it to Hermès and its controlled distribution. “It’s the exact same thought process that we bring from the fashion world to the NFT world.”
The brand plans to release additional NFT-related physical and tradable utilities, including brand discounts, exclusive airdrops, and VIP access to in-person and metaverse events — a metaverse fashion show is in the works. The brand has handcrafted each physical sneaker and unique sneaker collection box with the same attention to detail that Yang is used to, using suppliers in Italy.
The collection presale begins February 7, while the general mint begins February 10. All sneaker styles will launch at the same time and will be numbered from 001 to 100. NFT holders will be able to redeem NFTs for the exact sneaker style they want until March 1 through the brand’s website. Physical production of the sneakers at the company’s Italian factory will begin on March 8 and take up to 16 weeks.