At NYFW, PUMA Reinvented How Sneakerheads Interact With NFTs

On September 13, PUMA made its return to New York Fashion Week with an exclusive shindig typical of the industry: a star-studded runway show dubbed “Futrograde.” It was both a fashion extravaganza, complete with the recent PUMA x Paloma Spain collection, and a demonstration of PUMA’s devotion to exploring web3.

At noon on September 16, anyone who’d purchased PUMA’s Nitropass NFT on August 26 was able to “burn” their token in exchange for one of two real-world sneakers.

2,000 pairs of PUMA Nitro NFRNO and Fastroid sneakers were made redeemable through PUMA’s interactive Black Station lookbook platform. The NFRNO, described on the Highsnobiety Discord as the “more appealing” of the two, went quicker than the Fastroid though both were hot commodities.

This marks one of the first times a major sneaker brand has redeemed IRL kicks for NFTs. For years, web3 enthusiasts have long wished for marriage between sneaker culture and NFTs, pointing out that, among other things, blockchain technology could help cut down on fakes.

PUMA’s latest initiative is a move towards this new standard.

“Our approach to Web3 this year has been about engaging communities, both testing and learning. We knew that we wanted to connect both digital and physical worlds,” said Adam Petrick, PUMA’s Chief Brand Officer via email.

“The communities we are a part of were craving physical products. It was a really exciting process because we designed shoes that were digitally-led, then tweaked and iterated them to be built out physically.”

PUMA brought in FTR to build out its Black Station lookbook using Unreal Engine, software most commonly used in crafting video games — creator Epic Games uses Unreal to power smash hit Fortnite, for instance. Brett Danahy, founder of FTR, believes this kind of crossover approachability is crucial for mass web3 adoption.

“Big picture, we believe technologies like game engines, AI, haptics, and spatial sound will be as important to the future of Web3 as blockchain is,” Danahy said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to experiences that generate emotion and we put that at the center of any project we work on.”

The last time that PUMA had attended New York Fashion Week was 2017, when it unveiled a collaborative line with Rihanna. There was no point in coming back without making an equally big splash, according to Petrick.

So far, the web3 community has offered overwhelming support.

Since mid-September, members of Highsnobiety’s Discord have been raving about PUMA’s “personable” C-level team and Discord community.

As Petrick stated, this is a big part of PUMA’s process: it wants to get direct feedback from the community, and in turn, put it to action. Expect this level of personalization to become the norm for brands seeking to enter web3.

What started in web2, with social media making brands personable and approachable, has now transpired into brands directly managing their own communities and experiences. Runway shows get them hooked and folks who are most moved can join PUMA in the metaverse.

The whole NYFW experience has been so positive that Petrick’s already charged up for PUMA’s future NFT projects.

“There’s great value in knowing our buyers, their sizes and location, prior to going into production of these exclusive drops,” he said, highlighting exactly where the game is changing.

This type of sneaker personalization used to only be available to insiders, celebrities, and influencers. With web3, community drives commerce. Maybe not everyone’s idea will cross the finish line but more people than ever before will actually be able to get there.

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