Blockchain Solutions in Luxury Apparel - How to Build Sustainability with Cryptocurrency

Sustainability is arguably the buzziest word that’s echoing in the entire fashion sphere, but for the entire financial world, blockchain is a phrase that makes everyone tremble with excitement. So, what happens when fashion brands take advantage of blockchain and crypto to further reinforce their eco-friendly pledges? As NowFashion puts it “Blockchain is here to save the fashion industry." Why? The answer is simple: consumer demand for transparency across the entire supply chain.

Blockchain for supply chain, traceability, and transparency

As IBM pointed out in their most recent market evaluation,  environmentalism is now a key driver of choice in the market. Sustainability has hit a tipping point with global sustainable and environmentally responsible investment up by 68 percent to exceed USD 30 trillion.

Sourcing sustainable materials is quickly becoming a top priority for fashion brands, according to McKinsey. Almost every brand agrees that creating transparency in their supply chains is extremely important, however, only a handful of them had actually achieved that.

"The textile industry is one of the most fragmented industries on the planet," Amit Gautam, the founder of TextileGenesis. told CNN Business. In a nutshell, he explained that the supply chain for a simple piece of clothing can involve up to seven different manufacturing stages across multiple countries with the raw materials sometimes exchanging 10 hands before it is converted into a t-shirt. 

How can cryptocurrencies and blockchain apparel solutions promote transparency in luxury fashion? We first need to understand what blockchain really is.

What are blockchain solutions in luxury apparel?

Chances are that you’ve already heard of the words “crypto”, “bitcoin”, “blockchain” or even “NFTs.” If you are shaking your head in confusion, no worries. These new technologies, even though complicated at first, are pretty easy to understand when you get the gist of it. 

What is cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is an electronic cash system that works just like cash but in a digital form. So, instead of giving your Paypal email address in order to receive money, you are sharing your unique crypto wallet address anonymously. It can’t be backed or insured by any federal entity and it doesn't go through their systems either. In fact, a slew of big-name stores that accept Bitcoin transactions like Nike, Walmart, and Target.

How do you keep your crypto safe? Digital currency wallets. Once you purchased or exchanged your crypto, two unique keys will be created — one for currency transactions, and a second (private) one to get access to your coins.

Blockchain technology in the fashion industry

Consider Blockchain as your own diary, an online public ledger that creates a permanent and accessible record of every stage of the supply chain. It’s responsible for storing every bit of information about all the transactions that happen in the network using encryption. By using these “Blocks” of information, a time-stamped record of the flow of physical products through the logistical network is created. Each part of the supply chain has its own token which cannot be altered after the submission.

Each block comes with a unique ID for recognition purposes. 

"With Blockchain, it is impossible to manipulate the results," explained Francois Souchet, a sustainability expert at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, "It provides all actors across the supply chain with certainty that the information is true."

 

How Blockchain Technology Can be Used in Sustainable Fashion Production

Using blockchain technology, designers can create a reprimand record of every step until the finalization of the product. This way transparency on all data points is insured. This includes sustainability certifications, ethical work environments, fair wages, raw materials, sourcing, and more. This information allows unlimited access to this “digital diary” and can be reviewed by every consumer. 

Sustainable fashion designers are on a mission to tokenize (aka create blockchains) for every physical asset (properties, equipment, and inventory) in order to allow consumers to insect every step of the creative process.

Nonetheless, blockchain solutions in fashion also cater to small business owners as well. As a decentralized public network, it allows the user to store and securely transfer information and currency within seconds in the most accurate way possible. Every action in it is recorded, stored, and available to anyone in this system. 

Fashion Brands Using Blockchain for Sustainability

As Amanda Razani at CoinClarity mentioned “ I was surprised to learn that New York Fashion Week, sent out a model garbed in a cryptocurrency-themed outfit. With blockchain being one of the biggest headlines in the news, it should probably not be a surprise that someone in the fashion industry would eventually turn their focus towards it.”

In 2018 The World’s first Blockchain Fashion Conference was held during Kyiv Fashion Week. The end goal? To connect ethical fashion designers and developers and help them join forces for a more sustainable future for the fashion industry.

“Participants will be able to develop their product using the technology presented, obtain quality consultation from blockchain industry experts and eventually create a prototype to cater to their projects.” Jillian Godsil explained. 

Examples of Blockchain Technology in Fashion

Martine Jarlgaard

In 2017 the London-based designer, Martine Jarlgaard created a single digital token for every piece of clothing she manufactured. Through this innovative process, full details were freely displayed to the public from the origin of her materials up to the sale point. 

“Technology will be what helps to reconnect us to the people and the places involved, and that information will increase consumer expectations, which will put more pressure on the big companies,” Martine Jarlgaard shared in her Forbes interview

The process was pretty straightforward.

All customers could scan a unique QR code or NFC-enabled label (Near Field Communication technology allows users to make secure transactions, exchange digital content, and connect electronic devices with a touch) to be presented with a list of information about the specific item of clothing.

In the words of Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion, blockchain technology in luxury fashion is highly connected with the art of storytelling.

“Where transparency and sustainability play a part, then there’s really beautiful storytelling.”  Martine was fuelled by her desire to show off the craftsmanship and ability of her partners. So, instead of presenting the final products to the customers, she highlighted them in the most visually pleasing way. “ Ordinarily when you look at a finished product you never think about that.” he added.

Blockchain in fashion for authenticity

A huge concern on the luxury fashion industry is, well, counterfeits. In 2020, the annual sales losses from counterfeiting in the fashion industry reached a staggering 26.3 billion euros. The global sales loss from counterfeit and pirated goods doesn’t only harm the revenue of specific brands.

The result? The market is flooded with unauthorized, plastic, unethically sourced items that can only negatively impact the environment. By using Blockchain technology to tag each luxury item with a unique QR Code,  designers can mitigate counterfeit risks by digitally tracking products and the entire supply chain long after they've been sold. 

Traceable pre-loved luxury with LUXARITY

During the annual Preloved Pop-Up, LUXARITY, for example, luxury fashion customers managed to purchase an array of gently used luxury products without having to worry about their authenticity. Each item is tagged with a unique QR code. As soon as this code got scanned, all the background information including its previous owner, environmental impact, the manufacturing and sourcing process, etc was visible.

Even better, each new owner could also access a digital note from the first owner of the item they purchased pre-loved, which makes the whole customer experience a lot more transparent and exciting.

Burberry 

Well-known industry giants, like Burberry, are also adopting blockchain technology. In 2021, Burberry contacted IBM interns with a request to create a prototype blockchain-based protocol. IBM is a website that helps customers find myriads of different user guides to pretty much every home appliance.

This prototype developed will allow all Burberry customers to know the most key elements about the item and register the purchased item.  This way, they can understand the items' history and their human and environmental impact. 

In summary, blockchain solutions in luxury apparel can absolutely make the whole industry fairer, more transparent, and better for the people and the environment. If you take into consideration Nielsen’s report , 66% of global consumers and 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products if they come from a brand that resonates with their own personal values.

This obviously isn’t a surprise given that millennials and generation Z consumers are responsible for 85% of the global luxury sales growth with 60% of them driven by environmental, animal, and ethical manufacturing concerns.

Sustainable business practices, innovative blockchain fashion technologies, and circular fashion are arguably the future.

Author: Konstantina Antoniadou 

Editor: Rickelle Mason