This is the 4th post about Fashion 4.0 in The Fashion Retailer. If Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and 3D Printing are some of the technologies that represent the 4th industrial revolution, Blockchain is the most trendy right now, and cryptocurrencies (e.g. Bitcoin) has something to do with it… What about Blockchain for Fashion Retail?
What is Blockchain?
According to Digital Trends, It´s a database that’s validated by a wider community, rather than a central authority. It’s a collection of records that a crowd oversees and maintains, rather than relying on a single entity, like a bank or government, which most likely hosts data on a particular server… Each “block” represents a number of transactional records, and the “chain” component links them all together with a hash function. As records are created, they are confirmed by a distributed network of computers and paired up with the previous entry in the chain, thereby creating a chain of blocks, or a blockchain.
Smart Contracts for the Supply Chain (Source: Chamber of Digital Commerce)
Blockchain and Fashion Retail
So, Blockchain means decentralized structure that provides security making data trustworthy. It also supports smart contracts in an industry where email order confirmation is almost a rule. This will reduce human errors and misunderstandings regarding payment terms, returns, purchases, etc. It´s, again, Fashion and Technology: Fashtech. But, as you will see, Blockchain is more than technology, its impact goes beyond the industry or the society. I think about “revolution“, “manifesto”, “ecosystem”, “collaboration” and “transparency“. Maybe, it´s the legacy of Naomi Klein, and others that demand a fair, safe and more transparent industry.
Blockchain also eliminates inefficiencies in international trade allowing all members of the supply chain (carriers, banks, traders, suppliers, etc.) to connect to a secure decentralized network, exchanging information, documents and data, directly. Blockchain reduces payment risks and prevents fraud while facilitatating fast, secure, low-cost international payment processing services.
The best way to understand how a technology can be applied in the real world is thru a business case. So, I watched a case study, collaboration between Provenance, a blockchain technology-based startup, and Martine Jarlgaard, a british fashion house.
I love to work with technology because I think it can change the way we are in the industry. I can make us make better decisions, more intelligently and just to be more sustainable – Martine Jarlgaard, fashion designer
Blockchain allows brands to tell more of a story and give credit to all the people involve in the process. Every product has a story, from raw materials to the store, each part of the value chain is identified, as Martine said. Nowadays, one of the majors trends are sustainability and circular economy. Customers want to know where the product is coming from, and not only in Grocery but also in Fashion. Patagonia and Everlane are two good examples of companies betting on traceability and sustainability in their supply chains, allowing customers to identify their suppliers.
Consumers want to know where their clothes are coming from
Fashion Revolution – See Fashion Transparency Index
For Gen Z and Millennials shoppers, trust and sustainability is important. More and more customers are embracing fair trade and blockchain is a really good technology to enable this traceability, with trust and security (e.g. track the country of origin, ISO26000, ISO45001, ISO14001…). And more than that, allowing customers to scan and discover the “history” or roots of every garment, improves customer experience.
In collaboration with Martine Jarlgaard, Provenance tracked the world’s first garment with a unique ID holding location mapping, content and timestamps from every step of the production. The journey information was made accessible via the garment’s smart label. This serves as a Proof of Concept of blockchain implementation in fashion supply chains (provenance.org).
If Martine Jarlgaard is offering this transparency, imagine how luxury retailers can benefit from Blockchain. Customers will be able to see the story of the product, its fabrics, suppliers, and confirm that the garment is original and not fake. According to OECD, fake goods trade is above $450 Billion (2013)!
Some Blockchain companies to keep an eye on if you love Fashtech:
PROVENANCE is a platform that empowers brands to take steps toward greater transparency by tracing the origins and histories of products through a union of open data with e-commerce.
VECHAIN is a blockchain platform offering Blockchain-as-a-Service to enterprises. VeChain partenered with Babyghost, a streetwear brand, to reduce the negative effects associated with fake market. A VeChain chip is embedded inside each piece of clothing, and will transmit its public digital “story” to the user for verification.
With a unique ID stored on the VeChain platform, each product has its opportunity to tell a story. The products now have the ability to communicate a brands’ history and craftsmanship or sustainable practices which is reflected with the time-stamps of the product’s history from production to the store. This not only gains’ customers’ immediate trust, it builds an effective connection with them. (VeChain retail solution)
COIN FASHION is a new fashion “ecosystem” based on peer-to-peer principles. The final customer should be connected to a designer directly on a basis of trust. The final customer should play a key role in the process of creation (co-creation, customization); p2p promotion; co-pricing (paying less for being involved more); and in something quite innovatibe – co-investing.
JD.COM has launched a new artificial intelligence machine called an AI Catapult accelerator that will focus on the development of AI and blockchain technologies. its first batch includes six companies: Bankorus, CanYa, Bluezelle, Nuggets, Republic Protocol and Devery.
BONAFI is a blockchain company founded in LA which is on a mission to defend all brands and retailers big and small, and protect consumers from counterfeits by implementing a fail-safe authentication system using blockchain technology.
Click here to see how Bonafi works
ETHEREUM is a blockchain-based distributed computing platform that allows users to build and deploy decentralized applications for using crypto-assets.
A TRANSPARENT COMPANY is a consultancy for sustainability, innovation & communication strategy. It collaborated with Provenance in the the Martine Jarlgaard project.
Blockchain for Supply Chain
WAVE has created a peer-to-peer and completely decentralized network that connects all carriers, banks, forwarders, traders and other parties of the international trading supply chain. Using decentralized technologies, all communication between these parties will be direct and will not pass through a specific central entity. Due to its decentralized nature, the Wave network will not have any single point of failure and will not rely on any single entity.
IBM and MAERSK. In January 2018, Maersk and IBM announced the intention to establish a joint venture to provide more efficient and secure methods for conducting global trade using blockchain technology. The new company aims at bringing the industry together on an open global trade digitization platform that offers a suite of digital products and integration services.
The platform is currently being tested by a number of selected partners who all have interest in developing smarter processes for trade. As we incorporate learnings and continue to expand the network, a fully open platform whereby all players in the global supply chain can participate and extract value is expected to become available.
Read more about Fashion 4.0 in The Fashion Retailer:
- Artificial Intelligence in Fashion Retail
- Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Fashion Retail
- 3D Printing in Fashion Retail
- Internet of Things in Fashion Retail
More about Blockchain in Retail:
I recommend Deep Dive: Blockchain Mini-Series—Retail Applications from Coresight Research.