Blockchain Lifestyle Applications: Spotlight on Fashion
As so many industries, from finance to healthcare, continue to develop new applications for blockchain, it is becoming clear that this new technology has the potential to change our lifestyle and society. It is not surprising then that the top players in the fashion space embrace blockchain, searching for inspiration and solutions for the industry’s most pressing issues.
Fashion Industry’s Challenges
Protecting the authenticity of luxury goods, in times that markets are flooded with counterfeit products, is a huge issue for luxury fashion. After all, fakes rob established brands of their profits and reduce the quality of items, thus damaging the brands’ reputations. The scale of this problem is enormous – according to OECD, the global trade in fake goods is worth half a trillion dollars. Another challenge is connected to sustainability. Consumers are expecting the fashion industry to become more sustainable, increasingly seeking more information on the type of materials that their clothing is made of, and where and how it is made. And also, supply chain management remains challenging. Shipment tracking and timely delivery of products with the right specifications is a daunting task as it stands today.
IP Protection and Sustainability
Blockchain based databases offer an opportunity to verify items’ authenticity and track goods to ensure that they are produced sustainably. Materials can be tracked from their source to the factory where items are produced, all the way to finished goods that are transported to retailers through supply chains. Low-quality, unsustainable materials can be eliminated at the source. The unique and traceable information of each product could reveal the composition of its fabric, where the cotton or wool was grown, which polyester compounds were used, what chemicals have been used for bleaching or dyeing it, who made it, and the conditions in which they worked. These attributes of the new technology are already starting to be applied in the industry.
In 2017, UK-based designer, Martine Jarlgaard demonstrated blockchain’s potential for making fashion supply chains more transparent, enabling brands to provide verified information about the materials, processes and people behind products. Jarlgaard partnered with blockchain startup Provenance to create a digital token for every piece of clothing she produced, which included data on its history. Each step in the manufacturing process was recorded, from raw materials to finished product complete with time and location stamps. Consumers scanned a QR code or NFC-enabled label to access the information. Similarly, a trendy brand Babyghost teamed up with Shanghai-based Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) company BITSE, and its VeChain project to ensure that their Spring/Summer 2017 clothing collection could be verified on the blockchain. As all clothing was embedded with a VeChain chip, and customers could use an app to find out everything they needed to know about each piece.
In the Spring of 2019, LVMH, the world’s largest luxury conglomerate, announced in partnership with ConsenSys and Microsoft that it will be using the blockchain platform Aura, with tracking services based on Ethereum blockchain. The platform allows consumers to access the product history and its proof of authenticity, and see it traced from raw materials to the point of sale, and even to second-hand markets. It provides information about the origin and components of the product, including sustainability information, instructions for care, and the after sales and warranty services that are available. Louis Vuitton and Parfumes Christian Dior are involved in the pilot project as LVMH plans to onboard the rest of its brands.
Meanwhile, LVMH’s rivals Richemont and Kering are working with a Paris-based non-profit Arianee, which is preparing to launch a similar database collectively managed by participating brands. And in the high end jewelry industry, big brands like De Beers and smaller start-ups like Taylor & Hart began using blockchain to help trace their supply chains all the way from the mine. Last year it was announced that De Beers led an industry effort, along with five other diamond manufacturers, to develop an open-source blockchain platform called Tracr, while Taylor & Hart partnered with blockchain start-up Everledger. Jewelers are aiming to use the technology to authenticate the provenance of their diamonds and other precious stones and to ensure that they do not come from conflict-affected and high-risk areas.
Supply Chain Management
Blockchain based solutions also offer an opportunity to improve fashion brands’ supply chains and operations. Companies would be able to identify weak links in their businesses. They would know if their suppliers are providing them with low-quality materials, or if their factories are not adhering to the required quality standards. Blockchain technology can help prevent fraud. It can also simplify supply chain management, and enhance client experiences by reducing human errors and clarifying transactions, processes, and records.
Fashion Inspired by Blockchain and Cryptocurrency
In addition to tracking fashion goods across their supply chain and ensuring their authenticity and sustainability, fashion designers, just like artists, are using the new technology for inspiration. The fashion industry is famous for being responsive to the latest trends. As blockchain and cryptocurrency are becoming increasingly popular, more fashion brands are producing blockchain and crypto themed designs, including clothing with digital currency symbols.
But cryptocurrency fashion offerings are not simply iconographic. Melanie Shapiro has created biometrically-secured Token, which can store keys, cards, badges, and passwords. Token rings are quite attractive and come in a variety of metals and finishes to match wearers’ personal style.
The Irish startup Bitcart developed the world’s first Dash cryptocurrency payment wristband named Festy, allowing wearers to pay for products with the Dash crypto. Festy is compatible with any point-of-sale system that accepts Visa contactless payments and can be used to make payments on the phone or computer, using NFC tags or QR codes.
And to develop a deeper engagement with generation Z consumers, global brands are trying new ways to produce their collections, including going digital. A Norwegian company Carlings debuted its Neo-Ex collection in partnership with AI influencer Perl. The collection lets influencers pick a look and get 3D designers digitally fit it on them for a small fee.
Technology Inspired by Fashion
While fashion brands and designers look to blockchain technology for new ideas, startups are developing new technologies based on the inner workings of the fashion industry. For instance, Anna Karenina a designer from Kiev on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list considered a prodigy in the fashion industry is behind the recently launched Fashion Coin (FSHN) cryptocurrency designed to radically change the fashion industry to ensure licensing and avoid fakes.