As a hyped streetwear designer, as well as a curator and purveyor of exclusive vintage, Sean Wotherspoon is known for embracing both the past and the future. So, then, why shouldn’t his business efforts?
Enter Mntge, his latest initiative with cofounders Nick Adler, an entrepreneur known best as Snoop Dogg’s brand manager, and Brennan Russo, a former Adidas marketing manager.
The trio are still feeling the rush from a highly successful debut drop last week — an initial two-stage offering for Mntge passes that grant exclusive early access to real and digital fashion. Now the team is setting its sights on the first actual fashion drops for the first quarter of 2023, with four items from Wotherspoon’s personal vintage collection. But that’s not all.
Mntge offered WWD an exclusive sneak peek at what’s on tap, and it goes beyond the vintage denim jacket and digital twin that Wotherspoon teased on social media days ago. Indeed, there’s an extra surprise — their first one-of-one NFT will come with an “ink” bottle in the virtual trunk, and it unlocks a whole new layer of experience that, the partners hope, may blow fans away.
As Russo explained, “The trunk opens up and you receive two items: There’s the piece of Sean’s wardrobe and an ‘ink’ bottle, and these two things essentially sit in your wallet as two separate NFTs.” Apply the ink bottle, and a designer overlay emerges for the virtual garment. The jacket itself also opens up, offering a portal to another realm.
The mechanism may feel familiar to the crypto natives. It’s akin to “serums” that, when applied to Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, create “mutant apes” as variations on the original artwork. Here, blending the ink bottle takes the owners to an immersive world full of flowers.
The notion isn’t entirely foreign to Web 2.0 consumers either, as social media platforms work with brands like Gucci and others to bring users into immersive, stylized environments — from lush gardens to labyrinths — via smartphone cameras and augmented reality. The same spirit of experimentation that drives those campaigns often puts innovative fashion houses like Gucci, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana and more at the forefront of Web 3.0 as well.
Of course, owners don’t have to blend the ink and the NFT. But if they choose to, it’s easy enough to do. “You’ll get a notification to blend, and that’s when you’ll go to a new site and submit both of those [the NFT and the ink],” Russo continued. “You submit a wallet, it will read that and burn those two, giving you this brand-new, more dynamic, futuristic NFT.”
At present, the Mntge ink’s immersive environment is something of a lean-back experience. But the team continues to develop use cases, exploring how far it can push the tech. It hopes to offer some agency inside the secondary environment someday, possibly even connect it to one or more metaverse platforms.
“We don’t own any proprietary software to do this,” he added. “But I think we’re the first to think of clothing, in terms of how to take it from an existing original piece to a more dynamic, futuristic piece.”
So far, fans seem to be on board for the ride.
According to Adler, Mntge passes totaling 1,400 units sold out over its initial two-stage offering last week. The first stage, offered strictly to partner communities, moved 1,290 passes, and the second batch, a public raffle, moved 110 passes within minutes the next day.
“We saw a crazy amount of entries, 300,000 entries, that came in, and we sold out within four minutes,” Adler added. “And that propelled us on OpenSea. I think as of right now, we did 480 ETH in total trading volume, which if you look up the ETH to USD conversion, it’s around half a million dollars.” Now only 100 remain, as reserved in the vault for important contacts, such as collaborators.
In other words, even before Mntge releases actual fashion — whether real or virtual — the venture is already proving popular. In fact, with 1,065 owners, it’s clear some patrons purchased multiple passes, which explains why some are already showing up in OpenSea’s secondary market.
For Adler and his partners, the traction validates their original concept.
Mntge, a portmanteau of “mint” and “vintage,” is exactly what it sounds like, an effort to bridge the world of vintage and the world of NFTs. To hear Adler and Wotherspoon’s take on it, there’s a natural connection, and picking up on that is what birthed the business.
“In Round Two [Wotherspoon’s L.A. vintage boutique], I just saw kids coming in all day long buying vintage T-shirts. It’s the middle of COVID-19, everyone’s masked up, and it struck something with me,” Adler went on. “I looked at Sean and asked him about it, and everything he told me a year-and-a-half ago has come true — from the size of the vintage market, to how fast it was growing, to what was on trend and from things like Double Knee Carhartt pants or specific band Ts, and why one was more valuable than the other.”
He saw premium T-shirts spotlighting Madonna, Snoop Dogg and others fetching thousands of dollars. “I asked him why, and he started to tell me [about] the provenance, the fading of this T, and how come it’s a green fade, but was a black T … how these ’80s Hanes Ts are more durable than the 2022 high-end boutique Ts,” he continued. “I was just thinking about how these things had such stories to tell and had provenance, and rarity, and traits. It really resembled what was happening in the NFT world.”
For Wotherspoon, it was a similar lightning-strike moment.
“I was describing the T-shirts — that’s something I take a lot of pride in, you know. I’m hand-picking them,” the designer and collector said. “I probably picked through, at my busiest, 10,000 pounds of vintage a week to pick the best things for our stores. And I love explaining the character of these T-shirts to people, whether it’s the provenance of where I got it and where that person got it from, who made it or just the material makeup.
“It’s the heightened ability to use your senses to experience these items,” Wotherspoon continued. “And as I’m explaining it to Nick, I kind of realized, ‘Oh, wow, these are similar traits to how you guys are talking about Web 3.0 and the NFT world.’”
The vintage denim jacket that will be released via Mntge as its first fashion drop is one that Wotherspoon outbid a fashion brand to procure, he added. Soon it will be in the hands — and the crypto wallet — of a new owner, enjoying its second or perhaps third life alit by a field of flowers and overlays.