Fashion industry case study: Martine Jarlgaard, Provenance and A Transparent Company

Industry

Telling a fashion brand story with the help of blockchain

“I have to say I’m completely in love with this technology because it really allows you as a brand to tell more of a story. The connection that you create with the end consumer is really valuable because you tell the story and you also give credit to all the people involved in this process.” — Fashion designer Martine Jarlgaard

The challenge

As they learn more about the environmental and social costs of the products they buy, a growing number of people are coming to expect greater accountability and transparency from the companies they do business with.

One industry where there’s particular demand for this is fashion, where current practices can raise concerns about sustainability, worker safety, truth in labeling and other issues.

In 2017, fashion designer Martine Jarlgaard — working with the software company Provenance, A Transparent Company and the Innovation Agency at the London College of Fashion — set out to break new ground through a project using blockchain to track and verify each step in the apparel supply chain.

Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash

The project

Using blockchain, the pilot project tracked every stage of production for a knit jumper — from recording the raw fleece sheared from two alpacas at the British Alpaca Fashion Company in Dulverton, UK, to verifying the spinning of yarn from the fibre at Two Rivers Mill in Wimborne Minster, to marking the creation of the knitted textile and final product by Knitster LDN in London.

All the data recorded — down to the names of the two alpacas, Skyfall and Othello — could be accessed online via a tag with an identification number on the jumper.

The pilot participants presented the jumper and blockchain pilot in May 2017 at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit’s Solutions Lab.

The results

Customers could view the complete life history of the alpaca jumper by scanning the QR code or NFC tag attached to the garment.

If neither of those options worked, they could also enter the product ID into Provenance’s website to see when the jumper was produced, who the different suppliers were and where they were located, the dates on which each supplier took and then transferred custody of the product, and when the fleece was sheared from the alpacas. The page even included photos of Skyfall and Othello.

Consumers who wanted to learn more technical details could also view product transaction information such as the block ID, contract number and hash via Etherscan’s Ethereum Block Explorer.

Key benefits

The blockchain fashion pilot delivered three key benefits, according to Provenance:

  • A unique digital product ID
  • Better collaboration among participants in the supply chain
  • A more integrated view for consumers of a product’s digital and physical characteristics

“Proof of authenticity is key,” Provenance says. “Blockchain adds extra security to claims made by brands… This ultimately aids in the prevention of false claims.”

Final thoughts

A Transparent Company founder Neliana Fuenmayor wrote recently: “A circular supply chain can only be achieved when all the information committed to the chain of custody is visible to all and in real time.

“Breaking out from siloed information stored in servers that are not interoperable between existing systems only supports opaque operations and a lack of trust.”

Fuenmayor said the alpaca jumper pilot demonstrated “a way to embrace new technologies that can help the circular economy to become a reality”.

She added: “We envision a world where we can track products into the future, claim ownership tracing how they are being rescued, re-sold, rented and ultimately recycled.”

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