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Tuesday, May 30, 2023 — Houston, TX

.SWOOSH: Nike bets on the Metaverse

Amber Wang / Thresher

By Jonathan Woo     3/21/23 10:15pm

Fashion has been making a comeback in the metaverse. Virtual characters can now don North Face puffers and Off-White hoodies in Snapchat Bitmojis, Jordans in the “NBA 2K” video game series and Fortnite unicorn back bling. There have long been ways to express yourself in online worlds (think skins in video games), but only recently with the emergence of blockchain technology have big fashion companies started to explore that space as well. One brand investing heavily in the metaverse market is Nike, and they recently hosted a community event at Houston’s The Better Generation sneaker shop showcasing .SWOOSH, Nike’s virtual creations division.

The event’s speakers included Franchec Crespo, .SWOOSH lead product manager, and Jasmine Watkins, .SWOOSH community & content manager. Watkins touted multiple advantages of virtual creations over the physical shoes and apparel many Nike consumers are currently familiar with. During the presentation, Watkins provided mockups of shoes made of lava and water as an example of the possibilities of the .SWOOSH technology.

“We are able to create products not possible in real life,” Watkins said. “Plus, you can rep Nike gear in your lives beyond our world, whether that is on Fortnite or NBA 2K.”

Another benefit to virtual creations are the perks and longevity that come with owning a Nike product on the blockchain. Watkins said that when purchasing physical products, your brand experience with Nike is largely limited in scope to the use of the product only. They said that virtual creations allow consumers to connect with the brand long after the initial purchase.

“.SWOOSH projects have so much more longevity because we are able to add experiences and benefits long after the drop,” Watkins said. “This could be exclusive access to a drop, an opportunity to meet Lebron, NFTs — there are a lot of possibilities.”

In addition to making it easier to purchase, trade and collect coveted sneakers, .SWOOSH’s eventual goal is to bring co-creation to the masses, according to their blog. Sneakerheads are likely already familiar with Nike’s previous collaborations, from luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton to child patients at Doernbecher hospital. However, these products are often impossible to get without paying multiples of their original retail price on the resell market, and only a few established creatives are allowed to be involved in the collaborative process. Crespo emphasized .SWOOSH’s ambitions to greatly expand the ability to collaborate with Nike to the masses so that everyone can be a sneaker designer.

According to Crespo, this represents an exciting step for Nike in driving interaction with its wide consumer base and solidifying brand loyalty in the digital age.

“Here, we want to think about how to scale the creative process for everyone,” Crespo said. “Being able to make your own shoe without being a celebrity or designer — that is our goal.”

Houston inspired sneaker colorways, such as 2022’s Air Force Low “H-Town” and 2018’s Air Jordan 4 “Cactus Jack,” have been popular in the past, but Crespo and Watkins imagine a future of Nike where the community has greater input in the company’s decision making and product line. The .SWOOSH team is currently planning a round of city-oriented events where communities will be able to collectively create a special Air Force 1 through .SWOOSH that represents and symbolizes the city they live in, with more community oriented events and opportunities to come. 

“We want y’all to have a say in the sneakers we create,” Crespo said.

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