Yes, environmental benefits are probably not the first thing that will come to mind when the words "cryptocurrency" and "fashion" are mentioned in the same sentence. It seemed like only yesterday that the word NFT was foreign and exclusive to investor-geeks, but the Metaverse has stimulated multiple innovations in the creative eco-system of goods and services. Here, we have an example of how major pop cultural movements i.e. streetwear and sneaker culture can potentially reap said environmental benefits.
Sure, the fashion industry does not rank high on the scales of environmental-friendliness, but the unique concept of ownership in NFTs could be what is needed to further our current industrial and design efforts in achieving circular fashion. Plus, the financially-savvy sneaker community seems like a good place to start, given how we are already seeing some crypto-fashion collaborations take place.
Last month, two of three unique sneakers made by blockchain-certified luxury sneaker marketplace Satoshi Studio and Arianee, a consortium that creates digital twins (NFTs) for physical products, were acquired during a live auction at the Ethereum Conference in Lisbon. The profits will be going to Kalaweit, a non-profit organization that protects apes and preserves the biodiversity in Borneo and Sumatra. Satoshi Studio and Futures Factory co-founder Nicolas Romero gives us his take on how it all melds into a fine opportunity between boundless creativity and sustainability.
ESQ: The profits from the sale of the 2 NFT sneakers are going to an NGO that protects apes and preserves the biodiversity in Borneo and Sumatra—what does environmental sustainability mean to you or Satoshi Studio?
NICOLAS ROMERO: Since we founded Satoshi Studio in 2018, sustainability has always been one of our core missions. We made the choice of operating a direct and demand-driven business model inspired by crowdfunding to produce only what we need, to avoid unsold items and the loss of raw materials. It's a slower but organic growth model. Thanks to our partner Arianee, the blockchain technology we use also allows us to be fully transparent with our customers as they have access to our whole supply chain, material origins and certifications, directly through the NFT associated with their physical sneakers. Finally, to align even more with our environmental engagements we are working on 100% vegan Satoshi sneakers.
ESQ: Tell us more about the sneakers sold during the Lisbon conference; in terms of design, concept, and purpose.
ROMERO: For the Lisbon conference, we took inspiration from three crypto communities and the NGO we were raising for to design three NFT sneakers. We used our Satoshi_01 sneaker as a template to add their graphic design to it and bring crypto communities together with these models. Out of the three NFT sneakers, two were acquired during a live auction in Lisbon for ~USD39,000 (9.5 ETH) and ~USD31,000 (8 ETH), one was given away for free during a contest. All the proceeds from the auction will go to Kalaweit, a non-profit organization that protects apes and preserves the biodiversity in Borneo and Sumatra. As this will be their first cryptocurrency donation, we will be helping them secure the funds. Since Ethereum has recently hit a new all-time high (USD4400) and more and more crypto-currencies are becoming mainstream, we believe it is a better strategy for them to keep most of these funds in crypto for the long term. I've heard of Kalaweit years ago and was really impressed by this young motivated founder who left his home at 18 to save gibbons in Indonesia. I spent a week in a reserve in Borneo two years ago and saw with my own eyes the beauty of the primary forest, but also what we call the "biggest environmental crime of our times". More than 90 percent of Borneo’s primary forest has been destroyed. This money will help Kalaweit in their mission: buy lands and create safe reserves for animals.
ESQ: What are the different considerations that come with designing a “Future” compared to regular sneakers?
ROMERO: The most interesting part of creating "Future" sneakers is that there is no creative limit. "Futures" on Futures Factory are NFT sneakers that will or already has a physical counterpart, so really the only consideration you have to keep in mind while designing them is whether you actually want that design to have a physical twin with its NFT. In that case, you must understand how sneakers are manufactured in real life, but if you want to stay only digital, the freedom is endless! That being said, the Futures will mainly be for sneaker brands with experience. There will be an exception for 3D printed footwear though, since it will be much easier to print more extreme designs with help of our partners. In that specific case, there is no need no need to be a brand or have an infrastructure to design and print sneakers.
ESQ: Tech and fashion are already merging, how do you see blockchain playing a vital role in this evolution?
ROMERO: Whether we’re talking about physical or digital, blockchain is an effective way to verify, own, authenticate and trace products. With video games and social virtual spaces becoming mainstream, digital fashion will follow. Blockchain will play a vital role by making our virtual assets interoperable from one space to another. On a more cultural aspect, the fashion industry has always been inspired by the street but I believe the next iconic brands will rise from internet and crypto communities. These new iconic brands will have cultural credibility in their niche and they will address people looking for community and most of all, identity. I like to say that decentralization is not only a financial revolution, it's also a cultural one.
ESQ: How do physical sneakers fit into the picture, if they do?
ROMERO: NFTs have always been associated with digital assets but they can be associated with physical items. Think of it as a digital authenticity certificate. An NFT coming with the sneakers can prove the authenticity of the pair and allow second-hand real world transactions without the need of a brand or an intermediary to intervene in the process. The NFT also provides information about suppliers and materials, as well as exclusive content for owners, and circular use-cases. In the case of Satoshi Studio, we want to bridge the physical and digital worlds. NFTs can also allow a brand to pre-finance a production of real sneakers while making the collecting and waiting time way more exciting than a traditional crowdfunding, just like how one of the NFT sneakers we sold at Lisbon will be physically manufactured into a unique model for the buyer.
ESQ: Do you think sustainability would be a growing factor in why buyers make NFT purchases?
ROMERO: I believe that sustainability in the crypto industry isn’t going to be a growing factor because everyone knows that blockchain consumes a lot of energy. However, nowadays sustainability has become a buying criterion for many consumers and I think that to keep up with these demands, crypto brands will have to become eco-friendly. If we focus on NFTs linked to physical products, as we do at Satoshi Studio, it is very interesting on a sustainable level as it allows full transparency from brands. NFTs also prove ownership and can make the resale of the physical product so much easier as NFTs can be quickly transferred from one wallet to another. I know some brands from the Arianee consortium—a NFT brand association we are a part of—that will use NFTs to simplify the way their customers sell their authenticated goods on second-hand marketplaces. This aspect can make sustainability a growing factor for NFT purchases.
ESQ: Finally, what can we expect next for Satoshi Studio?
ROMERO: Apart from finalizing our 100% vegan sneakers project, we are also working on more athletic sneakers in honor of Hal Finney, the 1st developer of Bitcoin's protocol after Satoshi. We also plan to launch the Tim's (Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web) and the Hopper's (Grace Hopper, a pioneer of computer programming). Since I've been into crypto, I've been fascinated by the lore, the cypher punks, the early attempts of peer-to-peer internet money and more. We are also starting to raise funds for Satoshi Studio. We want to switch to a made-to-order model, in which sneakers are continuously produced as they are purchased. This model achieves the same sustainability (no waste) but will allow us to ship the sneakers to our customers in a few weeks instead of months. Our long term goal is to build with our partners the infrastructure that will allow other brands to be more circular and publicly transparent in a format designed for the digital age.
Find out more about Satoshi Studios.