From Louis Vuitton to Gucci to Ralph Lauren, the luxury and fashion industry has made a gargantuan impact across the globe. The industry has shown a strong growth trajectory and is currently valued at a staggering USD 3000 billion. However, what remains behind the curtain is the insane amount of resources squandered by the industry every year. Believe it or not, the industry is the second largest contributor of waste pollution – most of which ends up in landfills. There is a deeper story attached to every piece of garment which challenges our morale.
The root of the problem is that many luxury brands would rather have their products dumped or burnt than having them at discounted clearance sales – all this to “preserve the prestige and the brand’s shine.” For example, in 2017, it was reportedly revealed that the Swedish multinational clothing-retail company, H&M burned approximately 60 tons of unsold clothing since 2013. In another instance, a British fashion brand, Burberry burned clothes worth USD 37 million. These statistics shed light on the appalling secret of the fashion and luxury industry.
Moreover, many a times the goods remain untracked due to inefficient infrastructure and poor data-sharing between the stakeholders. Naturally, the industry has been dipping into ground-breaking technologies and innovations to scale up sustainability and curb the radical impact it has had on the environment.
Overcoming the barriers in the fashion industry
As mentioned earlier, product wastage is perhaps the industry’s biggest downside. Typically, the manufacturer has to buy the raw material which is then used for production in the mills. These products reach the end-consumers through various intermediaries, during which they are prone to mismanagement.
Decentralized technologies such as blockchain are being implemented extensively by many industries to transform value chains. The whole idea is to deviate from centralization to prevent data manipulation and enhance product supply across the network. The technology also fortifies the authenticity of the high-end designer products to eliminate counterfeits.
For instance, a blockchain-based platform VeChain, made a mark in fashion to enhance product management throughout the supply chain. Last year, VeChain also partnered with a high-profile shoe artist SBTG in order to release an Adidas shoe embedded with NFC chips which would allow customers to watch a video of their shoes being manufactured by scanning the chip; all information which is stored on the VeChainThor blockchain.
In May 2019, Luxury conglomerate, Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton (LVMH) in a consortium with Microsoft and ConsenSys, unveiled a blockchain-based platform, Aura, for authenticating luxury goods amid the proliferating amount of counterfeit products.
On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building of Bangladesh collapsed with 1132 casualties – all of which were laborers. Exploited garment workers in the country have caused ripples on the water since the devastating collapse. In another incident, 112 workers died in a catastrophic fire break-out in the Tazreen Fashion factory. These figures raise significant questions pertaining to the current safety standards of the garment industry.
Addressing these issues is of grave importance, in order to provide ethical work environments while safeguarding the human rights of the workers. However, achieving this can be quite a feat, given the difficulty in monitoring the globe-spanning industry and the fact that most of the consumers are ignorant about the social and environmental whereabouts of the shirts on their back. In such a case, a transparent supply chain does wonders to disclose relevant information to the consumers and to do away with the opaque and complex supply chains.
Provenance is one such startup which uses blockchain technology to educate consumers about the product – way beyond the labels. The platform has been designed to overcome the current challenges by providing an uninterrupted chain of custody.
The Fashion Revolution movement
The Rana Plaza tragedy was commemorated by a revolutionizing Twitter campaign #WhoMadeMyClothes as part of the Fashion Revolution movement which is held annually. About 3.25 million people all over the globe participated in the same during the Fashion Revolution week in 2018. The movement is aimed at realizing better standards of fashion extending to all facets of the sector. This can only be achieved by establishing a comprehensive production background associated with every product.
The Fashion Revolution Week, 2019 celebrated transition to better business models with a Twitter campaign #LovedClothesLast. Blockchain projects are now attempting to track not only ethical fashion, connecting the worker with the consumer but also environmentally friendly materials and designer products.
As reported by BitcoinNews.com, the gaming industry has already led to a significant engagement of players with the virtual economy. In such a scenario, digital clothing is not far behind in terms of recognition and hype. In fact, Vogue shed light on the increasing popularity of digital clothing while indicating its potential to beat the popularity of gaming itself.
“People think that this is not a real thing, but the numbers are off the charts,” – said Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency, London College of Fashion.
Recently, digital clothing shook the norms of physical clothing and took a leap closer to reality when fashion pioneers, The Fabricant, designed digital couture by coupling “2D garment pattern-cutting software and 3D design software.” According to Forbes, the garment exists uniquely as both clothing and cryptocurrency. The digital clothing is considered the second-best option – next to going naked – to sustain the planet. True or not, it does incite further exploration of the realm to bolster a digitally-hooked world.
Image courtesy – The Fabricant
Highlighting the importance of transparency, Leonardo A. Bonanni, the founder of the supply chain transparency platform, Sourcemap said:
Without understanding the impacts of goods and services, we buy into systems that deplete natural resources, worsen environmental and social problems and endanger humans and ecosystems. Supply chains are conventionally held secret, limiting the stakeholders who can prevent environmental, social and health and safety problems.
The blockchain technology is paving way for sophisticated tracking methods to whichever industry it can extend its hands to. Perhaps now is the time to switch to a more reliable and efficient paradigm to endorse eco-friendly products and truly spark the fashion revolution from farm-to-closet. Educating the consumers plays an upper hand for them to make informed choices whilst putting an end – at least to an extent – to the deepest flaws of the industry.
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