Tokens of Appreciation

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have become an increasingly popular way for companies to promote their fashion products.  Non-Fungible Tokens are a relatively new Blockchain-based technology that is changing the way people buy and sell digital assets. They can be used for authentication, anticounterfeiting, and to protect intellectual property rights.  An NFT is a unique digital identifier that is recorded on a Blockchain so as to certify ownership and authenticity of the thing identified by the token. Because NFTs are each unique, they differ from cryptocurrencies which are fungible. Non-Fungible Tokens cannot be duplicated, switched, or divided-up. The ownership of an NFT is recorded in a Blockchain and can be transferred by the owner, allowing NFTs to be bought, sold, and traded. Non-Fungible Tokens can be created by anybody with access to a Blockchain ecosystem.  Non-Fungible Tokens often include references to digital artworks, photos, videos, audio or fashion. An NFT may confer licensing rights to use a digital asset. Non-Fungible Tokens can be linked to physical items to improve verification of authenticity and provide traceability. They can also be used for marketing and customer loyalty programs.

In fashion, LVMH (Louis Vuitton) and Nike were among the first brands to create NFTs to drive brand engagement and loyalty. These digital assets allow brands to build a virtual sneaker, or a 3D model of a handbag or other accessory. They can also be incorporated into video games or other digital mediums, i.e., a Metaverse, to drive virtual engagement with the product.  Non-Fungible Tokens also provide a new channel for artists to showcase their work without having to rely on traditional copyright laws for protection. Artists can use NFTs to release their art as a digital item and have the freedom to sell it under their own terms.

A Metaverse is a virtual world, often on the net, that is essentially independent of our physical reality. It comprises multiple emerging technologies that promise the next level of interaction in the virtual and physical worlds.  A multi-billion dollar industry, the Metaverse is a virtual environment that includes a digital economy. It’s a decentralized ecosystem that is supported by cryptocurrencies and NFTs.  Companies and brands are making an effort to leverage the Metaverse as an innovative platform for marketing and sales. Many have already launched NFT-based products, including clothing. The fashion industry has jumped on the Metaverse bandwagon to promote its brands and products to younger consumers. Some of the biggest names in the industry have partnered with popular NFT platforms to drive their branded content. Fashion houses and labels are using NFT’s to promote their brand in virtual fashion shows. These shows allow users to try on virtual clothing in an augmented reality setting.  These virtual fashion shows also serve as a platform to engage with buyers and generate interest in the brand. Moreover, it can be a great way to reach Gen-Z and Gen Alpha customers who are less likely to shop offline. Continue reading “Tokens of Appreciation”

Chips Dip into Fashion


The luxury goods industry has been a target for counterfeiting for many years. From Louis Vuitton clutches to Hermes handbags, counterfeits can cost brands billions of dollars. Thankfully, Blockchain technology is transforming how the luxury industry fights counterfeiting. It offers a tamper-proof, secure way for brands to identify products. A unique cryptographic token may be placed on one or more RFID chips that can be surreptitiously located on or in the product.  This technology allows tracing of a product’s life cycle, from raw materials through manufacturing to the point of sale and beyond to resale.

Radio-Frequency identification (RFID) chips rely upon radio-frequency fields to automatically identify and track tags that have been affixed to objects, e.g., a designer handbag. RFID systems utilize miniature radio transponders, a radio receiver, and transmitter. When a radio-frequency interrogation pulse from the transponder is sensed by the RFID chip, it transmits digital data, e.g., a cryptographic token, back to the radio receiver. In this way, the identity and origins of a RFID tagged physical item can be determined from the information encrypted in the token. This technology is currently in use throughout commerce for a variety of purposes including food, retail, healthcare, and physical security.

Combining cryptographic tokens with RFID technology is a fast-growing trend in the luxury industry. By tagging luxury goods with RFID chips that include a unique digital signature, the manufacturer is able to quickly and accurately identify a particular item as authentic and determine its origins.  A cryptographic token is an encrypted electronic file that may be used to authenticate the identity of a website, individual, organization, user, or assets. They can be thought of as the “Blocks” in a Blockchain.

In May 2019, LVMH and ConsenSys launched AURA, a Blockchain-based platform that allows consumers to verify the authenticity of their luxury items via an online certificate. The AURA protocol cryptographically connects all parties involved in the supply chain (design, raw materials, manufacturing, distribution) to ensure full transparency and prevent counterfeiting. LVMH is using Aura for its Louis Vuitton and Parfums Christian Dior brands. The brand is working with a number of third-party suppliers, including those who provide raw materials for its products. Continue reading “Chips Dip into Fashion”

Green Fashion Supply Chains

The most exciting green applications of Blockchain technology are those that trace the origins of luxury goods back to their raw materials. Many companies are still not quite ready to embrace Blockchain technologies. The question is whether they will be able to see the benefits of increased traceability without investing in the technology itself. LVMH, Prada and Richemont-owned Cartier have banded together behind a shared digital platform known as AURA which creates “product passports.” This Blockchain-based solution allows customers to see the supply chain history of their goods from raw materials through to second-hand sales. Each brand’s product is given a unique, cryptographically protected identifier that allows customers to trace a customized digital trail of the product’s journey from farm to fashion show.

Nativa™ is considering a green application of Blockchain technology through the issuance of a certificate of authenticity for luxury goods manufactured with traceable, ethically sourced raw materials from farms around the world. Nativa™ wool products are produced using a regenerative agriculture program. The program seeks to protect the land by improving soil quality, water quality, boosted CO2 capture, and healthy, well-kept animals. The application of Blockchain to this program offers brands a traceable and certified story, with each step of the production process awarded a certificate and a label tracing the raw material, e.g., wool, from farmers to garments. The regenerative practices that work with nature instead of against it help improve land, reduce water use and emissions, and protect soil and biodiversity. This program is the first regenerative wool program to be launched in the United States, in partnership with Shaniko Wool Company, an Oregon-based farm group managing nine farms across four states. Its wool is RWS-certified, which means it’s responsibly raised and produced with the best possible standards of animal welfare, land management, and sustainability.

This program is a great example of what happens when luxury companies are willing to get on the ground and help their supply chain partners become more transparent. It’s a win-win for the brand, the farmers, and the consumer.

However, this is not the only tracing technology being explored.  Sydney start-up FibreTrace has developed a way to make it easier for fashion brands to track regenerative cotton and wool from field to runway. Its luminescent tracking pigment is made from rare-earth minerals and can be incorporated into the fiber itself so that it can be scanned to verify its provenance.  Continue reading “Green Fashion Supply Chains”

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. Continue reading “Blockchains in Fashion: Authenticity + Sustainability = Profit”

Reap What You Sew

The sewing machine was invented in the early 1800’s by an Englishman named Thomas Saint. He was a cabinet maker who was looking for a way to make his job easier. He started experimenting with different types of machines that could stitch fabric together. After several years of experimentation, he finally came up with a machine that could stitch fabric together with a needle and thread. Many inventors in the US and Europe worked on improvements to sewing machines throughout the 19th century.

Barthelemy Thimonnier worked in France and received a patent for his sewing machine invention in 1830. His patent was for a machine that used a hooked needle and one thread to form a chain stitch. This chain stitch could be unfastened without pulling on the fabric or breaking it. Using this technique his device was able to mass produce uniforms for the French army. However, French tailors who were making the clothes were unhappy with this new technology as it was perceived as stealing their jobs.  In 1831 a mob of angry tailors burned down Thimonnier’s factory and sabotaged his efforts. His working machines were destroyed, and he never got a chance to sell his invention.

Elias Howe was born in 1819 on a farm near Spencer, Massachusetts where his father had a gristmill and sawmill. He grew up in the farming community of New England and learned the machinist trade at an early age. Later, he moved to Boston and found work in the shop of Ari Davis who was making mariner’s tools and scientific equipment. It was there that he heard about the idea for a sewing machine. Howe spent five years working on his sewing machine innovation, attempting to perfect it.  When completed, he applied for and was granted US Patent No. 4,750 for Improvements to the Sewing Machine for the lockstitch sewing machine on May 27, 1846. His discovery was to form the eye of the needle adjacent to the pointed tip so that two threads could be locked by the reciprocal movement of the needle.  A traditional hand sewing needle has the eye near the top, but on a lockstitch sewing machine things work much better with the eye near the point. The inspiration for changing the location of the eye on the needle supposedly came to him in a dream. His efforts were rewarded with royalty payments for every machine that used his design.

Isaac Singer, another American inventor, was the first man to bring mechanized garment manufacture into widespread use. His innovation had a significant impact on social and economic development in the USA and England. During the 1850’s, Singer worked with the Lerow and Blodgett Company in Boston to improve the sewing machine. The machine had a presser foot that fed the fabric and was designed to cause less thread breakage. Singer arranged the mechanism so that the needle would move “up and down” instead of “sideways” and was powered by a foot treadle and not a hand crank. As a result, it could sew 900 stitches per minute, which was four times as fast as an experienced seamstress’s could achieve by hand stitching the garment. His novel machine was also the first to allow continuous stitching and curved stitches. Continue reading “Reap What You Sew”

An Eye for an Eye: A VERY Brief History of the Sewing Needle

The sewing needle holds a special place in history. From its ancient beginnings where a precursor device was used to pierce skins and thread thin strips of hide or sinew together to the modern-day mass-produced steel tool, this humble implement has been an important part of human culture. During the Bronze and Iron Ages, along with the development of spinning and weaving techniques, people began making needles out of slender pieces of metal with a slot or “eye” formed through the metal at one end and a sharp point formed at the other end.

Needle making has a rich history, with a number of different styles being used throughout the centuries. The sewing needle is also one of the first examples of wire-making technology. It has been found in excavations of Gravettian archeological sites.  Early religious texts reference needles as one of the five tools brought from Paradise by Adam and Eve.  At a site in the northern deserts of China, researchers discovered needles that were more than 10,000 years old along with tools that may have aided in their creation.  Some were wide and flat, perhaps used to stitch thick hides; others were narrow and circular, which may indicate that they were used for delicate work such as embroidery. In the past, sewing needles made of Gold and Silver were highly coveted wedding gifts for the very wealthy. Blacksmiths made needles from iron and other metals. It wasn’t until around 1640 that the first commercial needles were made in England. The industry took off and by the 18th century Redditch, England had become a hub for needle manufacture. Millions of steel needles were made every year. This early mass production made needles cheap and readily available to everyone. Continue reading “An Eye for an Eye: A VERY Brief History of the Sewing Needle”

Invent’a Magenta

Pantone’s announcement of its Color of the Year is an event that inspires the celebration of the latest trends in design. Every year since 2000, a panel of experts meets in a European capital to select the shade that best represents the mood and spirit of the times.  The selection process is a secret and Pantone only announces the hue twice a year. They gather “representatives from various nations’ color standards groups” to present and debate colors before deciding. In choosing a hue, the experts look at trends, cultural influences, and global happenings to decide what will be the hottest colors for the coming year.

In 2023, the color of choice is Viva Magenta, which combines reddish-pink and yellow tones that are said to convey bravery, strength, and exuberance. According to the company, Viva Magenta is inspired by the red of cochineal, one of the most precious dyes in the natural dye family. It is also part of a broader Magenta Universe that includes other shades and complementary colors like pale and bright pinks, reds, and neutrals. Viva Magenta is a bold, fearless, and exuberant shade of color that’s ideal for apparel, accessories, and home decor. It encourages an optimistic celebration that writes a new narrative, according to Pantone. Continue reading “Invent’a Magenta”

Tut, Tut, Tut

When the tomb of King Tut was discovered in 1922, it ignited a worldwide craze for Egyptian Revival Jewelry. The discovery, along with the translation of the Rosetta Stone in 1822 and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, helped bring Egyptomania to a fever pitch in the West. But this interest in ancient civilizations dates back much further than these events, originating with the French Revolution and Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt. During his time in Egypt, the French monarch studied archaeology as a science and made many

Egyptian scarab beetle, a symbol of wealth

discoveries. When he returned to France, he brought home a treasure trove of inspiration.  Napoleon continued to pursue an interest in Egypt and its ancient history.

This interest in Egypt spread to Europe and influenced not only the design of a wide range of products, but also the way we see and think about architecture, music, and art. It even permeated the fashion industry. Jewelry became a popular form of expression that reflected an individual’s interest in Egypt’s ancient culture. A lotus flower was often depicted in jewelry, with its symbolic association with the Sun god Aman-Ra. The ankh, a hieroglyph for life, was also an important motif in Egyptian jewelry. The Ba, a bird-like aspect of the ‘soul’ that could travel out of the tomb after death, was another key symbol in Egyptian culture. These motifs were used in many styles of jewelry, from heavy gold shield shaped brooches and earrings of the Victorian period to the more refined ‘Art Deco’ pieces that are still in vogue today.

Cloisonné enamel was also very popular among jewelers and was frequently used in the depiction of Egyptian motifs. The motifs, including ram’s head and scarab beetles, were also often carved in precious and semiprecious gemstones, for example, sapphire and lapis lazuli, which the ancients believed would protect the wearer from evil. In the late 19th century, when the craze for Egyptian motifs reached its peak, jewelers were not attempting to recreate ancient Egyptian motifs as accurately as they had done in the past, but rather to adapt them to a modern style. The Egyptian Revival movement was an apt name for this refined mash-up of two different eras and a fusion of artistic technique. Continue reading “Tut, Tut, Tut”

Programming Fashion

Weaving fibers to form a fabric has been a part of human existence since ancient times. Weaving is the process of interlacing longitudinally oriented warp threads with horizontally oriented weft threads to form a woven fabric. Weaving is performed on a loom, a device arranged to hold warp threads under tension while allowing the weft threads to be sequentially added to them, to produce a fabric. The relative movement and positioning of the warp and weft threads during the weaving process results in a sequence of thread placements that together form a pattern in the finished fabric. To change patterns, the sequence of thread placements must be modified, a traditionally labor and time intensive process. Through the centuries, looms have had a variety of configurations, but their basic function has remained the same.

Loom technology has seen a variety of innovations throughout history in a continuous effort to make fabric production faster, easier, and more cost-effective. The Jacquard machine invented by French weaver Joseph-Marie Jacquard (born 1752 in Lyon, France) revolutionized the field of weaving. His invention, which uses punch cards to represent a desired sequence of thread placements during operation of the loom, greatly reduced the labor involved in the process of weaving. Jacquard designed a device that would be attached to a loom to control the placement of individual warp threads according to a pre-set progression of steps represented and controlled by a pattern of holes in each of a set of punch cards. This allowed looms to not only produce complex textile patterns such as brocade, damask, and lace, but also to be changed quickly from one pattern to another. By simply exchanging a first set of punch cards for a second set of punch cards, the loom could be reprogrammed to produce a new fabric pattern. Jacquard looms are used for weaving all sorts of intricate patterned textiles. They could be programmed to weave a single pattern fabric or a combination of patterns with different colors. Continue reading “Programming Fashion”

From Home-Made to Store-Bought Fashion

Fashion is a way of creating new and distinctive designs that can be worn by different people in different settings. It is often a reflection of the times in which it is created, but it can also be influenced by, technology, culture, even religion. Before the mid-19th century, most clothing was home-made.  Occasionally, a village dressmaker was available to make a made-to-measure dress.  The wealthy often employed seamstresses who dealt directly, and often exclusively, with their patron. The rapid mechanization of fabric production led to the appearance of ready-to-wear stores that provided the middle classes an opportunity to move away from home-made garments.

Aniline dye printed fabrics were used for many of the garments that were produced in this period. They were woven according to a manufacturing method that caused the dyes to run down the surface of the fabric. This made the garments more textured and interesting.  The process created fabrics that contrasted with the smoother, lighter-colored cottons and linens that were also popular at the time. Aniline dyes could also be applied to other materials to give them a more sophisticated appearance. One example is aniline colored velvet which was very popular through the 1890’s. It was made in a range of colors, from soft pink to dark red and sometimes bright purple. The Aniline colored velvet was a soft, comfortable fabric that clung to the body, revealing the wearer’s shape, and giving it an attractive drape. It was especially popular for evening dresses. Velvet was made in a range of textures, from fine to coarse. It was usually trimmed with delicate embroidery, lace, ribbons and beading. Continue reading “From Home-Made to Store-Bought Fashion”

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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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