"If an 18-month-old t-shirt brand came up to me at a trade show and were like, 'Hey, let's collaborate, I'd be like, 'Yeahhh, we'll think about it.'. Not to say no, but let's see what happens with your brand over a traditional fashion calendar. Maybe three years down the road," Jeff Staple stated on how streetwear typically works.
Unless you've created something so monumental or had an influencer adorn your clothes, it's a slow climb out of obscurity for nearly any brand. So, how did Gutter Cat Gang, an 18-month-old NFT project cut the line?
Friends Karlee, Eric, Mitch, and Dan founded Gutter Cat Gang, kicking things off with the launch of 3,000 NFTs. The project has since expanded its universe to include Gutter Rats, Gutter Dogs, and Gutter Pigeons. After hosting a few noteworthy functions and partnerships, the project quickly gained traction as one of the most popular NFTs on the market.
Meanwhile, Staple is a legacy streetwear brand. Launched in 1997 by Jeff Staple, the label made hyped history with its Pigeon Dunks, which essentially triggered the trend of camping out for sneakers. Now, Staple is in the meta-universe, making its foray into web3 with the launch of STAPLEVERSE early this year.
Collaborations are a cornerstone for Gutter Cat Gang and Staple as brands, so it's only natural they came together for STAPLEGUTTER Series One. GCG and Staple credit their active communities for tagging each other on Discord, the communal messaging platform home to NFT buzz.
Indeed, it isn't surprising considering how many of them are tagging Highsnobiety's Discord about the GCG/SV AMA before this story even dropped (which is happening on October 23 at 1:30PM).
Gutter Cat Gang and STAPLEVERSE officially met during NFT NYC. For Gutter Cat, NFT NYC was a big splash as its event with Stadium Goods became one of the most memorable experiences of the week-long conference.
"Our goal was to have a strong presence at NFT NYC and give the web3 space an idea of who we are," Karlee says. "We wanted to partner with a brand who shared the same appreciation for collections and collectibility culture, which is what Stadium Goods is.
"They were looking for a strong community to kick off these block parties with, so it was kind of a no-brainer for us."
Real-life events like GCG x Stadium Goods not only provide visibility but bring in non-crypto people.
"Right now, the space is so new and feels very underground still. It'll be a few years before the digital landscape is built out enough for our community to engage in a meaningful way, like on social media," Karlee states. "So, I think it's important to have real-life activations that allow the community to come together."
"Long-term, we'll see that transition that bridges the gap and allows us to capture the digital brand in a 'real life way' through storytelling and immersive experiences."
In response, Jeff commented on the impressiveness of Gutter Cat's recent Vegas meet-up — an event inspired by the planning required for a remote retreat involving an NFT project — and how challenging it'd be for STAPLEVERSE.
"If I'm going to a Vegas meet-up for Staplers, I have to wrestle with someone who's been buying Staple since 1998, who doesn't have an NFT and is like, 'why aren't I going to Vegas too?' So, I have to take care of those people. It's an interesting challenge to have." Staple says.
On the flip side, Gutter Cat Gang has attracted an audience that's a little more crypto-native.
"We had a 14-year-old on our TwitterSpace last night that spoke about how he was transitioning from gaming into NFTs, starting with buying skins on Fortnite. We always think about mass adoption as people in their thirties, but we also should be looking at younger generations," Karlee states (and she's right).
Gen-Z and younger grew up with in-game purchases for avatar skins and other pieces of digital identity. For those generations, NFTs are less about having an "asset" that accrues in value and more about expressing identity.
Karlee estimates that web3 is "70-80% men" even with younger fans. When asked about the inclusion of more women into the space, she notes that women buy more than men — but they don't feel as much sentimental attachment to digital collectibles yet. She credits a shift towards sustainability and people wanting to consume less to possibly more women progressing towards NFTs.
A metaverse conversation that often makes rounds is whether the web3 industry will become our evolution from social media. The pandemic was arguably an accelerant, but the pressures of being our 'best selves' on Instagram are exhausting for older and younger generations alike. In asking Jeff and Karlee if that was true for them, both admit it's part of the appeal of web3.
"That's why I like it. I identify with my digital pink cat. I'm not very out there with pictures of myself on Instagram. I barely post things that are personal anymore. Social media has to move forward." Karlee says.
"To get clout on social, it's 'you should look like a Kardashian or Jenner.' In the near future, what if you get clout by expressing yourself through this digital avatar?" Staple states.
"It doesn't even have to be a human being anymore. It could be any species. You can change your look on a daily basis just by changing avatars. It's inevitable people are going to embrace that."
Whether you're looking to trick out your digital or IRL self, the STAPLEGUTTER collection will open for 72 hours on the STAPLEGUTTER website, starting October 27 at 8 pm EST. All items are sold as NFTs, with physical items redeemable later. If you're a current HOLDR of SV or GCG, you may be eligible for an exclusive bundle dropping before the public.