Picture this: You’ve created a sustainable fashion brand (read: environmentally sustainable), sourced all of your materials from environmentally-conscious suppliers, and hired workers that are paid fairly and work in healthy conditions. You begin marketing your brand as “eco-friendly”, “sustainable,” etc., and then you get hit by the skeptics.
They are calling your brand yet another greenwashing scam, exploiting the empathy of people who actually care about the planet. You feel at a loss since you put in the effort to make your brand sustainable, or at least as much as possible, yet you’re being called a fraud.
Enter Blockchain Technology
Unfortunately, this was – and still is – the case for many fashion brands wishing to enter this niche market. But now, there is a solution. Enter blockchain technology.
If you haven’t heard, blockchain technology uses the method of recording information in a way that makes it impossible to hack and manipulate in any way. The information is stored on a digital ledger (database) within a decentralized peer-to-peer network. In other words, random computers worldwide authenticate anything that enters the blockchain to receive a small fee originating from the transaction. This ensures the process is decentralized and legitimate.
Tracing and Transparency
So, how can this be used by fashion brands? Essentially, throughout the production phase of an item, each transaction can be recorded on this digital ledger. For example, the purchase of recycled cotton for a t-shirt, the purchase of dying services in a workplace that is ethical and has initiatives to limit dye waste, all the way to the purchase of plastic-free shipping packages. At the end of the line, the consumer can look up all this information about the product and be at ease knowing that the brand has not greenwashed the public.
This foolproof method can guarantee the tracing and transparency of a brand’s products which can significantly increase their trust factor, thus increasing sales. Additionally, tracing and transparency are of utmost importance lately for conscious consumers considering the ongoing environmental crisis. Not to mention, the brand has a better chance of justifying high-priced products since they can prove that they are indeed purchasing higher-cost materials and services.
Protecting Brand Authenticity
Yet another reason blockchain apparel solutions are beneficial is that the blockchain data is a sure way to discern between authentic goods and “dupes” or “knock-offs”. Of course, when a legitimate high-end, eco-conscious brand comes into the market, at least one person wants to re-create the products and sell them for much cheaper.
However, if the loyal consumer knows that each product of that brand is, in fact, on the blockchain, they’re going to know right away which product is legitimate and which one is a dupe. This is much easier than having to, for example, carefully dissect the type of stitching to see if the product is genuine or not. With blockchain apparel, either there is something to scan or there is not (depending on the brand).
Platforms Supporting Blockchain Apparel
There are numerous online databases allowing brands to prove their legitimacy and be seen by potential consumers that have originated in only the past few years – which is hugely gratifying for eco-conscious brands as this was a far-off dream as little as five years ago. Some to look into include Everledger and Panaprium.
Potential (and sadly obvious) Challenges
While this new technology is obviously exciting for the fashion industry and consumers alike, unfortunately, there are some drawbacks due to the perceived environmental impact of the blockchain itself. Blockchain technology has been under intense and increasing scrutiny regarding the large amounts of energy it consumes, which is clearly a red flag for this type of conscious consumer.
However, most conscious consumers are very aware that environmental efforts can never perfectly benefit our planet and will likely still support an eco-conscious blockchain apparel brand as opposed to fast fashion.
When it comes to saving our planet, pessimists will have a “why bother” attitude, while optimists will take on all the efforts they can manage and afford. So, will blockchain apparel appeal to them? Likely. But it won’t be cheap. However, as a brand, it is a brilliant way to market yourself in the luxury market since you have all the resources to finally prove your efforts are legitimate and, therefore, can justify your prices.