DUBAI: UAE-based Chalhoub Group has announced the launch of SOL3MATES, a Web3-native sneaker brand, which will produce limited-edition sneakers.
Self-described as a “community-centric sneaker brand,” SOL3MATES aims to create an immersive and engaging experience by involving its community members in all aspects of the sneaker journey, from onboarding new designers to the co-creation of upcoming sneaker drops.
To join the community, customers can buy a membership non-fungible token, or NFT, that will provide benefits such as early access, preferred pricing, virtual wearables, free merchandise, community events and access to monthly sneaker giveaways.
“We listen to our customers, notably in the shoe space where we like to think of ourselves as catalysts for innovation, and find answers to their demands,” said Michael Chalhoub, president of strategy, growth, innovation and investment and joint ventures at Chalhoub Group.
“SOL3MATES will be to the sneaker industry what the lace is to the shoe: The element that ties it all, that brings the physical and the digital together, and that links the sneaker community with the Web3 community in an original way,” he said.
SOL3MATES isn’t Chalhoub Group’s first venture in the Web3 space. Last year, the group’s Christofle entered the metaverse with its first NFT collection “925 Genesis MOOD,” which sold out in five minutes.
Since then, “we started thinking what we could launch that could generate an even bigger impact.” The result is SOL3MATES, which “aims to be the small snowball that creates an avalanche of positive disruption in the sneaker industry, together with its community and the designers we’ll collaborate with,” said Nick Vinckier, head of corporate innovation and founder of SOL3MATES.
All of SOL3MATES’ sneaker collections will be designed in collaboration with upcoming sneaker designers from around the world.
The first collection, to be revealed on April 12, is designed by up-and-coming French designer Kacimi Latamene, who has worked with several leading designers such as Vitaly and Natasha Zinko.
Latamene said: “The most important aspect of this new brand is that it allows me to get in touch directly with the sneaker community. The SOL3MATES members will be involved in the entire journey. I’ll be able to build a relationship and share the story behind my designs.”
SOL3MATES sneakers will be available for pre-order in limited quantities and community members owning an NFT will have pre-access to the sneakers at a preferred price.
After the community pre-order window closes and if any sneakers remain, others will be able to pre-order the product.
The SOL3MATES sneakers will be delivered for free to community members worldwide one month before the public. They will also feature NFC authentication, AR augmentation and a virtual counterpart, wearable in Decentraland.
Last year, Chalhoub Group unveiled “GCC State of the Metaverse and its Potential for Luxury Retail,” a report which revealed the thoughts of Gulf consumers about Web3, which includes the metaverse, cryptocurrencies and NFTs.
The report showed high levels of awareness across all facets of Web3, with consumers being most aware of crypto (77 percent), followed by NFTs (49 percent) and the metaverse (46 percent), mainly among younger, high-income males predominantly in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Luxury consumers want to engage in metaverse experiences, with 89 percent saying that they would like to preview products in the metaverse and 87 percent saying they expect their favorite brands to be present in the metaverse.
Still, “we do not believe in a virtual-only future,” Vinckier told Arab News in a separate interview.
He added: “We don’t sell luxury. Luxury is the experience in the (purchase) journey and that will be the same for Web3.”