Transparency is a pressing issue in the fashion industry today. As a solution to this hot topic, blockchain in the fashion industry is being increasingly used to not only increase intellectual property protection for designers and companies but also to rapidly trace the entire journey of the finished product as it travels through the distribution chain right from the initial raw material stage up until it reaches the consumer, thereby giving rise to greater clarity about its origins for both brands and consumers alike. Companies are thus steadily working towards ensuring greater visibility and transparency of the workers in supply chains, the business relationships therein and publicly communicating about the initiatives they are taking to ensure sustainability across the supply chain.
In 2019, 200 fashion brands and retailers took part in the Fashion Transparency Index study which showed that sportwear and outdoor brands were leading the way on the transparency front. The 5 brands who scored the highest on their supply chain transparency are Adidas, Reebok, Patagonia, each scoring 64%, Esprit with 62%, and fast-fashion clothing chain H&M scoring 61%.
As of 2019, only 10 brands are disclosing information regarding where and who are they getting their supply of raw materials like viscose, wool, etc. The brands are:
Marks & Spencer
The North Face (VF Corporation)
Timberland (VF Corporation)
Vans (VF Corporation)
Wrangler (VF Corporation)
Brands who have shown the highest improvement since 2018 in their level of disclosure of supplier lists overall to the public are Dior (up by 22%), Sainsbury’s Tu Clothing (up by 21%), Nike (up by 21%), New Balance (up by 18%), and Marc Jacobs (up by 17%).
A blockchain software company named Provenance collaborated with London-based designer Martine Jarlgaard to produce, using blockchain technology, the world’s first tracked garment. Consumers in store, after scanning the label on the clothing items, could witness the history of the product and be certain about the sustainability of the raw material sources.
Luxury brands, for example LVMH which is the world’s largest luxury conglomerate, are also embracing this technology to track luxury goods and prove their authenticity. Louis Vuitton and Parfums Christian Dior are the first two brands to go on board with LVMH’s blockchain platform called ‘Aura.’
In the highly competitive luxury fashion sphere, the main role of blockchain is to help brands and retailers connect with each other who wouldn’t otherwise disclose information to their rivals.
In the diamond industry too, brands like De Beers and small start-ups like Taylor & Hart are making use of blockchain ‘to help trace their supply chains from mine to shop floor.’ While De Beers developed Tracr, an open-source blockchain platform by collaborating with five other diamond manufacturers, Taylor & Hart united with blockchain start-up Everledger to validate the provenance of its diamonds.
Also, built upon blockchain technology in the form of a peer-to-peer ecosystem is Fashion Coin, which is designed in such a way that allows a consumer to directly get in touch with any member involved in the garment creation process like the designer, model, stylist, etc. and be a part of the journey and invest in the early stages of product designing, while being incentivized via a specially built token.
As a defense to fakery, e-commerce giant Alibaba as well is developing a blockchain application which allows buyers to trace the journey of the product from the factory to their front door by scanning it, thus knowing if it is an original piece or not. Similarly, very recently the payments giant, Mastercard, announced about its new blockchain-based product tracking solution which, it says, would ‘provide a clear record of traceability’ as it is ‘designed to contribute to consumer confidence and trust by creating awareness of the authenticity of the product.’
The impact that blockchain is set to have on the fashion industry is huge but for that to materialize, considerable investment is required to construct the systems to support it. The real-time access to streamlined product information that blockchain technology provides will inevitably enable retailers to scrutinize stock status as well as customer feedback. Eventually, because of the surge in the blockchain-based platforms, deals struck with middlemen can be expected to slowly come to a halt as there will be more transparent communication between manufacturers, brands and the consumers.
As technologies are becoming more and more advanced and data privacy issues becoming a sensational topic, growing concerns about the revelations of personal data and its subsequent use for marketing purposes, are but rampant. Thus, secure and guarded technology platforms should be built and consumers should be given extensive insights into the workings of blockchain to ensure its success in the future.