According to a report from PwC, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, blockchain, drones, internet of things, robots, virtual reality and 3D printing are the eight emerging technologies that today’s businesses need to familiarize themselves with. Of the eight, there is one technology that has many fashion insiders furrowing their brows in a vain attempt to understand it, and that technology is blockchain.
Devised in 2008 and executed in 2009, blockchain is a term that falls fast from the lips of many who still misunderstand it. For those who are yet to become intimate with the term, the first thing you should know is that blockchain is the primary technology behind the tech buzzword of 2013, bitcoin. Defined by Blockchaintechnologies.com as a type of distributed ledger, comprised of unchangable, digitally recorded data in packages called blocks, they explain blockchain further by stating that, “These digitally recorded ‘blocks’ of data are stored in a linear chain. Each block in the chain contains data (e.g. bitcoin transaction), is cryptographically hashed. The blocks of hashed data draw upon the previous-block (which came before it) in the chain, ensuring all data in the overall “blockchain” has not been tampered with and remains unchanged”.
According to Alex Tapscott, blockchain is poised to revolutionize the world. As co-author of the famous book Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, And The World, Tapscott demystifies Bitcoin and blockchain technology, describing it as “ a truly open, distributed, global platform that will fundamentally change what we can achieve online, how we do it, and who can participate.” Tapscott also shared (with Forbes) that, “The first generation of the digital revolution brought us the Internet of information. The second generation — powered by blockchain technology — is bringing us the Internet of value”.
If you are still lost on what this disruptive technology is all about then we recommend that you take a moment to watch this video by Institute for the Future before continuing on. It demystifies blockchain technology in under 2 minutes.
BABYGHOST x VeChain: Demonstrating Blockchain’s Potential
Now that we have jumped over that hurdle we want to share with you great examples of when blockchain ‘met’ fashion. Let’s start with the latest fashion tech collab between cult fashion brand BABYGHOST and VeChain. First announced at Shanghai’s bi annual Fashion Week, the partnership, between the fashion brand and the tech product, demonstrates the unexplored potential blockchain technology can offer the fashion industry. VeChain, an anti-counterfeiting smartphone app created by Shanghai-based blockchain startup BitSE, “offers not just the emergence of blockchain technology and fashion, but arguably the most seamless pairing of this concept so far.”
BitSE was founded in 2013. By 2015 the company had set up a blockchain lab where they researched distributed consensus, DAPPs, and smart contracts. Believing that “blockchain can change the world” and serve as the new generation of infrastructure, BitSE introduced their new product VeChain. Bragging blockchain technology as part of its core, VeChain works by providing a product verification and transparent supply chain solution to the manufacturers and brands against counterfeiting around the world. It is through the VeChain platform, that Intellectual Property(IP) protection will be conveniently secure. Simply put, VeChain makes it possible for IP contents to be easily written into the Public BlockChain database without concern of being overwritten.
VeChain, which uses an Ethereum-based blockchain, gave those attending BABYGHOST’s runway show a peek into a future where it is ‘normal’ for people to interact with their clothing on their smartphones, and explore a product’s origins, materials, designing concepts and brand stories. On this, Sunny Lu, COO of BitSE, shared “Our mission is to transform this sophisticated technology to a real-world commercial application and make it enjoyable for consumers”. He continued, “VeChain pushes blockchain technology out to the world. We believe blockchain can change the world and that’s why we are building applications that everyone can use”
“Blockchain can change the world and serve as the new generation of infrastructure” -BitSE
VeChain was key when it came to how people connected with the BABYGHOST brand. On this BABYGHOST cofounders Qioran Huang and Joshua Hupper shared “Imagine that each garment now goes from being one of many to a one of a kind. It can literally speak to our fans similarly to the way that we love communicating with them via social media.” ,Lu added “What VeChain has done with BABYGHOST is bring digital experiences to their consumers and enable them to build up a personalized connection with the products they own.”
Blockchain, Crime Fighter?
This collaboration did not only elevate BABYGHOST’s interaction with technology, but it also opened our eyes to the fact that blockchain goes beyond the financial services. It is a technology that is opening new opportunities to fashion entrepreneurs and brands. Although not widely used in the fashion industry yet, the one area that blockchain technology is set to make positive changes too is the world of luxury commerce, by dealing with its biggest problem, counterfeit. Companies like Blockchain Tech Ltd founded by Guy Halford-Thompson, uses blockchain technology to tackle the problem of fake goods in the luxury sector. They are achieving this by creating a secure registry which tracks who owns designer products. The database holds everything a consumer will require to determine whether the product they are about to purchase is actually genuine. On what the future holds, Thompson sees the fashion industry being dependent on blockchain and smart tagging.
“By combining blockchain technology and smart tags, undetectable forgery becomes impossible.” -Chronicled
Blockchain Tech LTD is not alone in tackling this problem. Chronicled is another company introducing blockchain technology to the fashion industry. Similar to Blockchain Tech Ltd., Chronicled uses smart tags to track authentic sneakers being sold on the market so they can give control back to the consumer. Using their mobile app, you will be able to scan the smart tag of a product and get all of the information about its authenticity in a matter of seconds. On this, CEO of Chronicled Ryan Orr shared “By combining blockchain technology and smart tags, undetectable forgery becomes impossible, and wearing fakes becomes socially risky.”
Blockchain: Mapping A Product’s Jouney
Fighting counterfeit is not the only perk that blockchain technology can offer the fashion world, it also gives consumers and brands the opportunity to track and display supply chain information. Making this possible is a company called Provenance. They have used blockchain to build a traceability data system that will securely store information that is inherently auditable, unchangeable and open. Their objective is to work towards an open traceability protocol that allows them to tell ‘every product’s story’using blockchain technology in a way that enables secure traceability of certifications and other information in the supply chains. What we love most about Provenance, is that it answers the question, where does my product come from? They do this by making sure that every physical product comes with a digital ‘passport’ that not only proves the product’s authenticity, but also creates an auditable record of the journey the product took.
As one of the eight emerging technologies, blockchain technology is empowering brands to take steps towards greater transparency. Which means that should you ever want to trace the origins, foot print and histories of that cute dress you have your eye on, then blockchain technology will be able to tell you the product’s story which leaves us wondering, is fashion ready to be that honest and transparent?
Founding editor-in-chief of FashNerd.com, Muchaneta is currently one of the leading influencers writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology. She has also given talks at Premiere Vision, Munich Fabric Start and Pure London, to name a few. Besides working as a fashion innovation consultant for various fashion companies like LVMH Atelier, Muchaneta has also contributed to Vogue Business, is a senior contributor at The Interline and an associate lecturer at London College of Fashion, UAL.