by EILEEN CARTTER
A Jumpman’s a Jumpman, whether you’re leaping towards a basketball hoop or out of the Battle Bus.
While Nike isn’t re-releasing the beloved Air Jordan IX Cool Grey in the real world until December 11, the sneaker is already available in the metaverse: the company partnered with Epic Games, the developer behind Fortnite, to introduce a new line of Jordan wearables to the game, all coordinated to the Cool Greys’ icy hues. The promotion also introduces a new in-game interactive experience called the Jump man Zone, where players can hone their trick shots to win Jordan-branded skins (the outfits or other cosmetic gear avatars wear in the game). The Zone itself is artful and sparse, featuring a grey scale galactic landscape and indoor spaces with hoop-lined white walls and a giant tower of stacked Jordan shoeboxes. Highly conceptual stuff.
Nike and Fortnite's most recent collaboration was also its first: in 2019, the brands put out a digital collection of classic red-and-black Jordan gear that included, of course, some Air Jordan Is. Since then, fashion’s burgeoning interest in outfitting the virtual world has produced high-fashion partnerships between Balenciaga and Fortnite and Stefan Cooke and The Sims. As GQ’s Rachel Tashjian wrote this week, “Most of the fashion world’s investments in the metaverse thus far have been through video game skins, which make up an estimated $40 billion a year market,” offering “a relatively low-cost (and even sustainable!) way to engage the fashion-savvy gaming community and NFT holders eager to spend their currency in inventive and disruptive ways.”
It makes sense that one of the biggest brands out there would want to keep carving out space in the metaverse, and that players would want to wear it. “The way young people outfit their avatars is incredibly important to them,” Cathy Hackl, CEO (and Chief Metaverse Officer) of the consultancy Futures Intelligence Group and general metaverse expert, told GQ. “Direct-to-avatar is the new direct-to-consumer.” Even so, the question remains: can sneakers crease in the metaverse? Jury’s still out.
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