Blockchains in Fashion: Authenticity + Sustainability = Profit

Loro Piana is harnessing the power of blockchain technology to digitally certify the authenticity and traceability of its products. Partnering with Aura Blockchain Consortium — the first global blockchain dedicated to the luxury industry — the brand will use Aura’s tech to unlock visibility and traceability for its hero fabric, The Gift of Kings® wool.

A “blockchain” is a digital ledger that contains a series of encrypted transactions between computer file addresses often called “wallets”. These addresses have a public key that allows them to be opened and used for transactions and a private key, which is used to control access to the information held in that wallet. It is this combination of public and private encryption keys that makes a blockchain system so secure. It means that if someone is attempting to access the data in a wallet, they must decrypt and change every block in every wallet in the chain – without knowing both the public and private encryption keys this process would take almost the age of the universe to complete. Blockchain technology can provide a secure audit trail that can be easily used to track the movement of raw materials used by the fashion industry while moving through the supply chain.

There is no central authority that can manipulate the data stored on a blockchain – the information having been recorded and verified by multiple computers around the world. These computers (often servers) are called nodes, and they are responsible for checking and approving the transactions that go on the system. Once a transaction is approved , it is then added by encryption to a list of blocks in multiple wallets in the blockchain. Each block contains a time stamp, digital signature, and other relevant identifying and authenticating information. This information is then transmitted across all the nodes on the system, and once a specific individual receives the private key for that block, they can complete a transaction. One of the most exciting aspects of this technology is that it is virtually impossible for hackers to corrupt the encrypted data held within the blocks of the chain.

Counterfeit goods have become a big problem for high-end designers around the world. According to some of the biggest luxury brands, counterfeits account for nearly $98 billion in lost sales each year. In response, several of the industry’s biggest names are using blockchain to track their production and ensure the sustainability of their products. Chloe Vertical uses a blockchain called EON to trace cotton from field to fashion show.  Likewise, Stella McCartney’s Spring 2023 collection features a Snog-a-Log graphic tee made of climate-positive verified cotton grown in Turkey by farmers who use regenerative practices that capture and store more carbon in the soil than they emit.  One of the most innovative uses of blockchain is that of Certificate of Authenticity, which gives consumers confidence in their purchase by tracing its origins and authenticity throughout the product lifecycle. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. LVMH, Prada and Cartier appear to be developing a global blockchain that may become open to all luxury brands, bringing a whole new layer of security to their clients’ data.

The Aura Blockchain Consortium, launched in April 2021 by LVMH, Prada Group and Cartier, part of Richemont, is designed to raise the standards of luxury by enabling a single global solution that covers all aspects of the supply chain – upstream as well as downstream traceability for each brand. This is the first non-profit association of luxury brands to invest in technologies and innovative thinking to advance a circular business model, build trust and transparency for their customers, accelerate innovation, and foster sustainability.

Unlike other solutions, the Aura Blockchain is not only secure but also private and local, meaning that its members are in complete control of their data and can manage it with the highest possible privacy standards. This also means that it does not require a vast amount of power to process large amounts of data, which makes it more energy efficient than other blockchain-based solutions and therefore less likely to cause emissions. In addition to this solution, the Aura Blockchain Consortium is also working on a suite of turnkey tools that can speed up the route to market for smaller brands who may not have their own advanced front-end systems. These could include simple, ready-to-use tools that would allow consumers to visualize data on the blockchain, such as how their clothes were made and from where were they sourced. Next week we will look at a few of the thought leaders for the application of Blockchains to the fashion industry.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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