In collaboration with fashion-tech company Wanna, the Italian house is debuting a digital sneaker, available to purchase for $11.99 on its app or $8.99 on Wanna’s app.

Designed by creative director Alessandro Michele, the sneaker is also the first original digital product from Belarus-based Wanna, which specialises in using augmented reality (AR) to create 3D models for digital fittings of sneakers and watches. So far, the app’s technology has been used by Reebok, Farfetch, Puma and Snapchat to test out how consumers engage with virtual try-ons, and perhaps more importantly, taking photos of themselves with new products using augmented reality.

The brand previously worked with Wanna to digitalise its sneaker catalogue for AR try-ons as well as integrating the capabilities within the brand’s own Gucci app.

The frenzy around digital-only products has grown in recent weeks, in part due to the large sales of digital assets in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the rise in online gaming and the continued pandemic e-commerce boom.

Wanna co-founder and CEO Sergey Arkhangelskiy is confident in the digital fashion market and the company is looking to expand beyond shoes and watches to clothing. He also predicts AR technology like Wanna’s will be further integrated into brands and retailers’ online shops.

“In five or maybe 10 years a relatively big chunk of fashion brands revenue will come from digital products,” he said. “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.”

Gucci has rapidly expanded its presence in the world of virtual clothing, collaborating with gaming platform Roblox, fashion styling game Drest, 3D social media app Zepeto, Sims 4 and Pokemon to create products and branded avatar items. Though purchased through the Gucci app, the sneakers can be “worn” in other virtual worlds on Roblox and virtual reality chat.

The virtual sneakers are largely targeted towards a digitally-native Gen Z audience, consumers that hold interest in the sneaker market but may not be able to afford physical Gucci products. Instead, they can spend $9 or $11 on the shoes for gaming and social media posts. And while NFT products rely on a one-of-one, minted asset, the virtual Gucci sneakers are unlimited and interchangeable for consumers.

Unlike the physical sneaker market, however, the secondary market for digital products is still nascent: resale or gifted products aren’t currently possible through Apple, meaning those that buy Gucci’s digital shoes won’t be able to flip them later on StockX. Resale in particular is an important area; the market for sneakers is a key part of the industry and an opportunity for further revenue and engagement among consumers. Arkhangelskiy said Wanna is working to develop trading capabilities, as well as limited-edition digital products that are in some ways similar to the NFT approach.

However, he acknowledges that the digital product space still has much room to grow. He’s 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.”

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