Antwerp Fashion Rebels Embrace the Metaverse and the Blockchain

Antwerp start-up Mutani helps creative fashion makers conquer digital worlds. A first collection will be launched on a digital marketplace on Friday.

Australian Shayli Harrison moved to Antwerp in 2013 to study at the famous Fashion Academy. She graduated in 2018 and in the meantime had started working with 3D printing, 3D scanning and virtual reality (VR). She participated in the Dissidence exhibition at Hasselt House for Contemporary Art, Design & Architecture Z33. This dissent is also of great importance in her startup Mutani (pronounced ‘riot’, rebellion) which was founded in February.

The co-founder is Ann Claes, senior director of fashion projects at the non-profit association for the creative sector Flanders DC. “The fashion industry is known for rapid innovations in content, but there has hardly been a change in the way of working in the last sixty or seventy years,” says Claes.


The essence

  • The Antwerp start-up Mutani wants to offer fashion designers an alternative to monetize their creativity, in addition to the established channels.
  • Mutani digitizes the work of designers and places it on the blockchain in the form of NFTs. This allows players and other users of the metaverse’s digital environments to truly own digital items.
  • NFT’s first launch will take place on Friday, featuring the work of an alumnus of the Antwerp Fashion Academy.

That has to change. On his site, Mutani says that he is waging a “rebellion against the oppressive and exploitative nature of the fashion industry.” In the metaverse, in almost all virtual environments, a fashion designer can be creative without hindrance. Blockchain technology makes new business models possible. Young designers get an alternative to a low-paying job seven days a week at a big fashion house.

Mutani works with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), records on a blockchain that refer to digital or physical objects and can be traded. “Now you can really take ownership of 3D digital objects and use them in different digital spaces,” explains Harrison. He is referring to major gaming companies like Epic Games and Electronic Arts, which are open to blockchain integration. “The player gets more autonomy.”

Harrison notes that players “work” quite a bit to acquire certain items in the game environment. Now they can finally own it. “Ultimately, it’s about self-expression, which is also the case with clothing in the physical world,” adds Claes.

And fashion designers can attract new audiences with their creativity. Mutani helps them by digitizing their work and preparing it for digital markets.

digital sportswear

Mutani wants to be a rebel against the oppressive and exploitative nature of the fashion industry.

Shayli Harrison

Mutani co-founder

On Friday at 7pm Mutani will unbox with a first NFT release, also called ‘drop’. These are fashion pieces by Stefan Kartchev, who graduated from the Fashion Academy in 2018. He has worked for fashion designer Walter van Beirendonck, for vegan shoemaker Rombaut, and for Bioracer, which designs and manufactures cycling clothing. . Kartchev seeks new ways to interpret sportswear and explore the limits of the human body.

The sale is made through the online sales platform The Dematerialised. That platform promises to ensure transparency and authenticity through LUKSO’s blockchain technology.

The prices are 150 euros and 250 euros. There is also an exclusive phygital NFT (contraction of physical and digital) that the buyer can use offline. The price of the phygital is 2,000 euros. In addition to cryptocurrency payments, The Dematerialized also allows regular money.

“We are bringing a wave of creativity that is unmatched in digital fashion,” emphasizes Claes. Although major brands are releasing digital versions of their products in the virtual worlds of Roblox and Fortnite, according to Harrison, these are digital copies of the physical products. They don’t necessarily fit into those virtual worlds. His intention is that fashion designers can respond with unrestrained creativity to the possibilities of the metaverse and the many subcultures that reside therein.

With the support of the city of Antwerp, Mutani is working on a new project involving six designers. Everything is done with Unreal Engine, software that allows the creation of high-quality digital objects.

Although Mutani is extremely critical of the fashion industry, brands have shown interest in her services. Harrison does not deny it. “She can help us do more for independent fashion designers,” she says.


Mutani wants to ‘unload’ fashion designers from technical problems. The start-up handles digitization with freelance developers spread across the globe, in exchange for a portion of the profits. “Critically, digital developers are inspired by our creative vision,” says Harrison.

For fashion designers it is important to know what the possibilities are and that there is an additional business model.

Ann Claes

Mutani co-founder

The founders of Mutani do not believe that the fashion designer should become a digital designer. ‘For fashion designers it is important to know what the
possibilities and that there is an additional business model’, says Claes. ‘A fashion designer traditionally needs pattern makers, a sewing workshop and textile experts. Now it’s about the developers. Mutani unites the two worlds.

At the Antwerp Fashion Academy, Harrison notices interest among the students and several teachers. She sees potential in a collaboration with Howest’s internationally renowned game design and development department, Kortrijk.

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