Fashion Blockchain – The issue with fashion is that some get it, and some don’t. But that’s just fine as fashion trends and styles are not for everybody.
However, one thing is for sure. Fashionable or not, wearing clothes is required by law. Irrespective of gender, age, political views or religion, we all must be dressed while outdoors.
While the requirement of wearing clothes in public might never change, as the fashion industry develops, the garments we wear and their composite materials keep evolving and improving.
The Need For A Global Fashion Blockchain
Half a decade ago, the advent of wearable technology and smart sensors seemed to take the fashion industry to the next level. Designed to collect biometric data and interact with the surrounding environment, the future of ‘connected fashion‘ seemed brighter than ever. And yet, it never took off.
Some attribute the failure of connected fashion to the designer’s lack of fashion design skills. You see, these fashion tech enthusiasts were first and foremost tech-heads, rather than well-established designers of apparel.
Then, ignoring consumer behaviour could have been another contributor to the failure of connected garments. As fashion’s primordial role is to make a statement, to communicate one’s status and only then, to fulfil functional means.
I’ve covered the failure of connected fashion in many of my previous articles, via Business Insider and TEDx talks, and will cover it again as my sole purpose is to help emerging fashion designers learn from past mistakes, and make the most of the latest innovations.
But, apart from ignoring consumer behaviour and missing the basics of fashion design, there was something else that hindered the emergence of connected garments: sufficient bandwidth, now available in the shape of 5G, and a global database, or ‘the blockchain’.
We’ll cover 5G later, so for now, let’s focus on blockchain technology. In simple terms, a blockchain is a list of records. A ledger, if you like, where the data is recorded in blocks that can’t be deleted or removed.
These blocks are linked together and secured using advanced cryptography. Each block contains a hash pointer – as a link to a previous block – a timestamp, transaction data, and user-defined info.
By design, blockchains are temper-resistant. Once the data has been recorded, it can no longer be modified. So why would a global fashion blockchain be so relevant to the fashion industry in general, innovation, and the future of smart garments in particular?
Fashion Blockchain – Ending Counterfeiting & Greenwashing
From an industry point of view, a global fashion blockchain will keep account of all garments, shoes, accessories, and all products ever sold. It will record the materials’ origin, stop product counterfeiting and greenwashing.
To conscious consumers, fashion blockchain is the holy grail. To see if the dress you’re about to buy is genuine, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free (as advertised), all you’ll have to do is scan the label with your smartphone.
But, there’s so much more we can do with a global fashion blockchain, as we’ll see in the case of connected garments.
Digital Profiles On Blockchain – The Story of Avery
The story starts with Avery Dennison – world’s number one supplier of care labels, and a company that counts Nike, Hugo Boss, and Under Armour amongst its vast clientele.
As Avery wants to track billions of care labels, it ships to brands all over the world, to ensure there’s no counterfeiting, the most suitable solution would be a global blockchain provider.
On the blockchain, Avery can record the type of the tag, company name, garment type, size, provenience and types of material used, product warranty, expiry date, and even the manufacturing or retail price, in a highly secure and immutable kind of platform.
Moreover, as blockchains are scalable and customisable by nature, any future innovations would be easy to implement, and that takes us to Avery’s next-generation of the care label. A label able to collect environmental, GPS, and biometrics data.
A label that knows if it’s cold, raining or snowing outside. And, as the label is in close contact with your skin, it knows if you’re sick, in danger, or lost, appending this data, in real-time, to your digital twin profile, also located on the blockchain.
When you buy a new jumper or pair of shoes, the smart care label turns on, and syncs with your digital profile – stored on the blockchain – ‘in a heartbeat’, pun intended.
The label uses your heartbeat to identify and connect to your blockchain-based digital profile. Once connected, it starts sending surrounding and biometric data.
Your Bra Has Called The Doctor
With the help of a smart label, connected garments, shoes, or accessories will collect your biometric data, placing it on the blockchain on your immutable account, which will become the gateway and central point of monitoring and maintenance.
When the data sent by your shoes to the blockchain triggers a flag, your doctor is warned that something wrong is about to happen. It will prevent you from having a heart attack and diagnose cancer before it manifests, all in real-time.
I have chosen VeChain to exemplify the potential of a fashion blockchain, as the company has approached prestigious luxury houses in Europe for similar projects to the one described here.
However, given the size of its blocks, VeChain’s blockchain is limited to NFC labels, customised and embossed to physical goods. Moreover, while not being against or pro ‘Bitcoin SV’, unbiased research shows that BSV’s blockchain scales and the nChain – the development company behind the BSV blockchain – has a better alternative to the NFC technology.
nChain’s blockchain has ample ‘room’ for smart labels. It can collect and store, not just end-to-end product and lifecycle management data, but also billions of users’ biometric data.
Moreover, as its blocks have unlimited size, their chain is ready for the next wave of AR/VR fashion, which requires not just high speed, but also tremendous amounts of storage, for extensive experiential content.
In the VR environment the users will ‘cheaply’ access the brand’s story and its heritage. They’ll ‘see’ artisans at work. ‘Check’ the provenience of materials used, and ‘learn’ first hand how to best care for their products.
And only through a fashion blockchain and smart label merger, your fashion products will be able ‘talk’ to you.
An SMS pointing to a handbag malfunction. A prompt via WhatsApp messenger pointing to a regular sneakers maintenance. Or, a final email instructing you on how to best recycle your shoes, at the end of their life.
Role of Blockchain Technology
The idea of smart labels is nothing new. Developed by researchers at Harvard University, over a decade ago, smart tags are already present in smartphones, food, toys, and even humans.
“Here we demonstrate a simple process of transforming general cotton threads into intelligent e-textiles using a polyelectrolyte-based coating with carbon nanotubes…to detect albumin, key proteins, blood, with high accuracy.” Nano Letters, vol. 8. Issue 12, pp. 4151-4157. December 2008; Wearable Fabrics For Human Biomonitoring.
What’s new here is the blockchain technology. It provides an immutable ledger ready for a new era smart tags that can collect granular data, write and synchronise it live on the blockchain.
Fashion Blockchain and Creativity
Back to a lack of consumer behaviour understanding and tasteless design – as two elements that have tanked connected fashion, a fashion blockchain will help with that as well.
Fashion design has always relied on our imagination. Finally, by exploring, through sophisticated algorithms, the vast data stored on a global fashion blockchain, the fashion designers of tomorrow will take the guesswork out of the equation.
Inexpensive and non-intrusive to the wearer, smart labels will collect environmental, geographic, biometric, and consumption ‘footprints’ on the blockchain, providing the designer with highly accurate, critical data.
As a creator, you’ll know consumers’ choice for sustainable or not, materials. The appreciation of your designs vs the products’ functional value. Will help you gain comprehensive insights into your consumer segment, trends and further sales opportunities, beyond past sales and Instagram conversational data.
A fashion blockchain will become a real-time, immutable global record of material provenience, manufacturing type and location, fashion styles, consumer behaviour, biometric data, able to nurture previously impossible creations.
WTVOX – ‘Voicing the Future of Fashion’
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