“How can we disrupt what we wear in our daily lives and extend it into the future?” ponders Brennan Russo, co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of MNTGE, a digital wearables startup aiming to be the premiere fashion innovation company.
Russo — a former brand collaboration lead at adidas — is chatting to Highsnobiety having teamed up with designer Sean Wotherspoon and culture executive Nick Adler to create the new platform.
MNTGE (pronounced min-tij) sells digital collectibles to access both IRL and virtually, and with a team of culture and vintage experts, aims to offer products that’ll help collectors access curators like Wotherspoon, as well as other noteworthy brands.
“Brennan brought me to Round Two and introduced me to Sean Wotherspoon,” recalls Adler on how the partnership came together. “This was in the middle of the pandemic when everyone was purchasing a lot of vintage t-shirts."
As someone whose previous job was handling Snoop Dogg's merchandise, Adler noted that one of the vintage t-shirts was a bootleg of the rappers’. Impressed with the quality, the three bonded over how the durability of vintage items creates a strong narrative for these items to have a life of their own.
These collectibles, however, are only the beginning, as the team sees MNTGE to possess the potential to spread into every vertical of fashion.
As one of the co-founders of Round Two — a store that arguably changed the face of the buy, sell, trade market — Wotherspoon is considered one of the most influential figures in the realm of vintage clothing.
“Through MNTGE and the growth of Web3, we've developed the ability to design beyond the traditional route and take fashion to the next level,” Wotherspoon explains.
“We're figuring out what it takes to evolve and offer a platform for these designers to think more outside the box. Web3 gave us a shortcut to that. Developing MNTGE actually gave us a shortcut within that shortcut.”
On December 14, vintage collectors will have the opportunity to purchase the shortcut-of-shortcuts through the MNTGE Pass, a limited token that will allow holders to access collections of physical and virtual goods, as well as other goodies like a token-gated Discord, airdrops, and first access to the MNTGE Market (which will host rare, vintage collectibles).
For its first drop, all pass owners will have guaranteed access to Wotherspoon’s private collection, too.
MNTGE puts a heavy emphasis on onboarding non-crypto natives from the streetwear and fashion communities for its initial rollout.
While Adler notes they do speak directly with OG collectors and degens (crypto slang for big NFT collectors), the hand-selected curation from Wotherspoon’s collection is aimed to bring on a unique experience for the web3-curious.
“For us, it’s not about trading, it’s about enhancing our daily lives and improving the fashion and collectibles we’d love to own and share,” states Adler.
“When you see some of the products we’re creating on the vintage side, we’ve got denim jackets from the 1960s that are accurate for the digital space. We’re adding certain elements that other web3 fashion companies are starting to bridge too, like RTFKT and 9dcc.”
To activate the cofounders’ web2 fanbase, MNTGE has been hosting a weekly TwitterSpace called Fashion, FUD, and Future. The show gets 10,000+ listeners, with guests including Jon Wexler of adidas, Bobby Hundreds, Jeff Staple, Larry June, Champ Medici, Sophia Amoruso, and even Highsnobiety co-founder Jeff Carvalho.
When asked how they can make virtual goods out of vintage gear without infringing upon the original brand’s IP, Adler notes that they’ll be leaning heavily on partnerships as an opportunity to bring these companies into the metaverse, helping the first creators earn royalties on the blockchain.
For now, MNTGE feels as though there’s a long road ahead. “It feels like this is pre-iPhone,” says Russo. “It’s going to take a little bit of time for everybody to get here and catch onto the hardware.”
Perhaps MNTGE will be what sparks all those Instagram resellers inspired by Wotherspoon's Round Two to begin the journey from web2 into web3.
When I interviewed the founding team of R2 nearly a decade ago in college, no one around predicted Sean would win the Air Max contest or Round Two would become a resale giant. It was just this spot on Broad next to a shop that would blast obnoxious techno music.
Now, 10 years later, with massive collaborations and a team of seasoned executives by his side, could MNTGE be Wotherspoon's next cultural landmark?
"Sean has a good sense of the vintage market," Adler says, "When we met, he explained to us how big it was growing and his predictions around it. Everything he told us has come true."