If you’re hiding indoors from a heatwave this weekend, you may find yourself doing some internet shopping. And the hot air outside may remind you to re-up on some inexpensive beach sandals, or finally acquire an unfaded pair of swim trunks. Such goals may feasibly lead you to Old Navy, at which point you may encounter a simple unisex gray T-shirt featuring a screenprint of the zombie-eyed Bored Ape #7285, causing you to wonder what parallel plane you have traveled to.
Last week, Old Navy released the Bored Ape Yacht Club tee as the first from an upcoming line that will feature character likenesses from several popular non-fungible token collections, making them one of the latest retailers to mint an official relationship with the blockbuster NFT project. The shirt, listed on Gap’s web store as “BAYC™ #7285 Gender-Neutral T-Shirt for Adults,” is currently priced at $18.99.
Reddit cofounder and NFT enthusiast Alexis Ohanian tweeted about the shirt not long after, accompanied by a 👀 eyes emoji. 👀, indeed!
While the right to use or reproduce an NFT’s likeness is typically reserved for its blockchain owner, Old Navy licensed this particular Bored Ape in order to mass produce it on apparel. (Per industry blog The Bored Ape Gazette, Bored Ape #7285 is the 3448th rarest primate by the NFT metric Rarity Tools, though its original owner is unconfirmed.) The retailer, Hypebeast reports, reportedly plans to produce more pieces featuring six different Bored Apes, 11 Mutant Apes, one CryptoPunk, and, later this season, six CloneX NFTs from a collaboration with the virtual sneaker maker RTFKT, which Nike acquired back in December.
(Old Navy, which is owned by Gap Inc., also licenses a slew of other popular IP imagery for graphic tees listed in its “character license shop,” including SpongeBob SquarePants, The Simpsons, and Sonic the Hedgehog.)
Plenty of other brands and retailers have gotten in on the NFT game, across both the luxury and mass-market spaces. In the last year, Bored Ape Yacht Club has also partnered with athleticwear giant Adidas, popular fast-fashion retailers Fashion Nova and PrettyLittleThing, and streetwear veteran Bobby Hundreds’s brand The Hundreds—and that’s only on the fashion front. Its founders also have their sights set on Hollywood.
In 2015, Old Navy’s then-vice president of men’s design Claire Newman told GQ that the brand was shifting its design strategy to focus “a lot more attention on researching global trends. We look at catwalks. We look at street trends. We look at blogs. We kind of just come up with what we think is all-American, casual, optimistic, easy to live in, and authentic…We are literally analyzing everything to find what is the best thing for our company.” Certainly a lot has changed since 2015, both for the company and in the world, but the breakneck-pace influence that the internet and pop culture have on consumers’ tastes has only accelerated.
Just yesterday, Old Navy’s parent company, Gap Inc., launched an in-person retail experience in Times Square for its Yeezy Gap collaboration with Ye and the French luxury house Balenciaga, which had previously only been available for purchase online. At the front of the pop-up store is a pair of iPads hooked up to play a Yeezy Gap virtual game, inviting customers to create their own Yeezy Gap-wearing avatars before they shop the clothes in real life. The thin line between our world and the metaverse continues to dissipate.