Fashion / Luxury

Luxury Houses May Put Aside Rivalries To Unite On Blockchain

In early spring of 2021, when the fashion power houses sent their designs down the first in person runway shows in two years, three fierce competitors put their aged rivalries aside and entered into an extremely unusual partnership.

The three largest fashion groups: LVMH, Prada and Richemont, a combined 103 fashion houses united behind a distinctly non-fashion agenda: blockchain.

Today, authentications of luxury items through blockchain are considered one of less than a handful of the most solid investments that one can make in the known NFT market. 

What’s The Link Between Blockchain and Luxury?

In quick succession luxury brokers built on the rising wave of confidence in blockchain and introduced their first luxury crypto-collectibles: Sotheby’s offered NFTS of watercolors by the celebrated watch designer Gérald Genta, the man behind the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Cartier Pasha solidifying that those that trade in luxury value, are trading in blockchain. Adidas has partnered with Prada to offer a “create it yourself” NFT artwork bringing high street brands into the fold as well.

The underlying technology is the key to turning this trend in luxury and art into a boon for sustainability. Aura, the blockchain consortium originally developed by LVMH and technology partners ConsenSys and Microsoft has been tasked with solving the critical fashion challenge of traceability of luxury goods by giving each product a digital identity: a fashion passport.

How Can Blockchain Foster Sustainability?

The “digital passport” provides customers with a secure, verified means to see the entire life of their owned product, from the raw materials throughout ownership journeys as well as basic information: when it was produced, the serial number, the price point, all the fabric which is involved, and where the fabric is coming from. 

While the passport takes dead aim at the deepest virus plaguing luxury goods: counterfeit, it has also given the fashion world its first, and deeply needed opening for a solid win in the ESG field. A digital footprint can allow brands to demonstrate their sustainability bonafides with confidence, a much-needed weapon in their larger war against fast fashion. 

Giovanna Sessi-Knott, Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneur, Slow Fashion Advocate and founder of The Morphbag by GSK says that the the industry’s recognition for the need of transparency is a step forward, however, “unless the reporting key indicators are not set and checked by a third independent party, we will end up with potential green-wash and different info depending on what the brands want to report.” 

This lack of clarity as well as a wait and see approach to the technology’s effectiveness against counterfeit has kept many major names, including Chanel, on the sidelines. There is also the fear that with transparency comes, well, with transparency. Processes are deeply guarded secrets in some categories such as accessories. Bottega Veneta’s Intrecciato technique to braiding their signature handbags is almost their entire brand story, would a digital trail lead competitors to copy?

Transparency is key to winning the interest of consumers. For consumers that hope fashion passports will help to filter out fast fashion and the negative impact it has on the environment, Sessi-Knott explains, “we will need to make transparency compulsory as lists of allergens are on restaurant menus these days and nutritional information is on food labels, if we leave this to the individual brands we will end up with ‘fake transparency’.” 

Still, discussions and attempts to share closely guarded production secrets, at all, are a sign that luxury is open to improving their transparency, and any outstanding concerns are being addressed. General Secretary of the Aura Blockchain Consortium, Daniela Ott, has explained publicly that private permission-based blockchain, where houses can each individually decide which information to give access to or not could alleviate concerns about privacy in their process or oversharing of any internal negative data, like a drop in sales (which one could see in public blockchain).

What Are Brands’ Commitments Into Blockchain?

Brands will also get to design the interface for their passport system in the form of an app or a website. This will allow brands to integrate it into their own storytelling, and package other “phygital” assets or collaborations into their user/buyer experience such as immersive videos touring the facilities of the leather manufacturer produced by award-winning filmmakers, video stories behind the master craftsmen they work with.

In the world of consumer goods, a digital passport could be the ultimate in luxury brand storytelling.

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