Blockchain: Transforming the Fashion Industry – Part I

Blockchain has started to transform the operations of many businesses around the world. It makes the textile, apparel, and footwear industries more transparent.  

In January, we published an article about “Measuring the Impact in the Textile Supply Chain” that addresses sustainability issues. Many of these sustainability issues can be addressed with Blockchain technology.

What is BlockChain? 

It is a group of blocks carrying digital information. The blocks have information related to transactions, such as the date and time of operations, and other related data (consumer profiles, purchasing behaviors). Each one of the blocks contains a unique set of data that can be identified by a “HASH” code algorithm.  

Also, Blockchain is a decentralized, distributed ledger that stores transactions sequentially. It can be thought of as a database that is shared across a public or private network.

Each user on the network has a copy of this shared database, preventing malicious users from modifying the content of the database.  This database, or ledger, is append-only; you can only add to it but not change anything after the fact, because of blockchain’s decentralized nature.  It can provide a peer-to-peer network that does not involve any intermediaries or regulating authorities (banks, government, unions). 

Transaction records on a blockchain can be used to identify the owner of a value item. Transfer of ownership happens through subsequent transactions, and this fact can be used to build a chain of ownership or authenticity. This data cannot be changed nor corrupted.

Transparency

Blockchain, with its power of transparency, can do more than you can imagine. This is the era of smart technologies, and every consumer, retailer, supplier, and manufacturer wants transparency in their products. A consumer today wants to know about the history of the products and wants to ensure its authenticity.

Brands are increasingly confronted with the rise of the “conscious consumer”, who questions the environmental footprint of textiles, apparel, and footwear.  Exploring the social conditions in factories and calls for greater transparency and sustainability. Indeed, opaque and unethical practices entail substantial reputational risks, with the potential to affect corporate profitability, brand equity, and operational capabilities.

Advanced technologies, such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and internet of things (IoT), provide an opportunity to increase traceability and sustainability through the creation of a common source of verifiable information on transactions, accessible to all supply chains parties, regardless of their location, so long as they have access to the Internet. 

Solutions using Blockchains:

Blockchain Technology can be extremely useful in the following ways:

  1. Avoiding product flaws in the supply chains: The process will be completely transparent, thus keeping track of everything from production to delivery. 
  2. Increasing the overall quality of products and efficiency in the manufacturing process.  Brands can identify weak links in their operations, such as a supplier providing faulty materials or a production department not adhering to defined quality standards.
  3. Promoting direct business to ensure authenticity: The speed of a blockchain network can verify the authenticity of the goods within microseconds of arrival.  The removal of middlemen increases the speed, efficiency, and quality of goods.
  4. Sealing information: Data is completely protected in the blockchain’s database. There isn’t any central in-charge.
  5. Minimizing the costs: Blockchain utilizes algorithms to select the right suppliers; it can also reduce the cost of production and delivery.  When the raw materials arrive at the supplier, it is automatically registered into the system. 

You can find Part II of “Transforming the Fashion Industry – Part II” by clicking this link.


Author: Jeffrey Clark

A management professional with 25 years global experience working with fortune 500 and speciality brands, specializing in lean manufacturing, product, supply chain management, procurement, sourcing, and operations. Proven proactive leadership, vision, creative, and successful strategic business skills to drive revenue and profit growth in highly competitive domestic and global markets. A strong relationship builder, functions effectively as an integral member of a cohesive senior executive team. Proven ability to source, identify and capitalize on emerging trends and niche market opportunities.