Richemont-owned Cartier, the world’s biggest jewellery brand, and Milanese fashion house Prada have joined the blockchain platform Aura, a product verification and tracing system launched by LVMH.
The companies’ “Blockchain Consortium” announced Tuesday builds on technology the French luxury conglomerate first developed in 2019 with help from Microsoft and ConsenSys, and is a rare instance of the rival groups working in concert.
The shared platform, which the companies say will now be open for all luxury brands to join, issues unique codes for individual products that will allow consumers and sellers to access tamper-proof ledgers containing information about the item, including authenticity, ownership history, maintenance and the provenance of materials.
LVMH brands including Louis Vuitton, Bulgari and Hublot have taken the lead on rolling out the system since it was first announced two years ago. But consultations with Cartier and Prada have been going on behind-the-scenes since the project’s early phases with the aim of creating a shared system that could be tailored to the different segments and brands.
“It’s really important that there’s been a democratic process so we could create a governance structure and a standard that works for both smaller brands and big brands,” Timothy Iwata-Durie, Cartier’s global innovation officer and a member of the Aura board said. Brands will maintain control of their own data. “Competitively sensitive” information on clients and supply chains will not be exchanged among brands in the platform, the statement said.
The attempt to establish an industry-wide blockchain system comes amid exploding interest in secondhand fashion from environmentally conscious and price-sensitive consumers. Resale’s rise has spurred more brands to get involved in the space, with the likes of Stella McCartney, Gucci and Alexander McQueen all partnering on initiatives with second-hand marketplaces.
It’s a major shift for the luxury market, which has long held reservations about the impact second-hand sales could have on brand value. Chanel and The RealReal are still embroiled in a years-long legal dispute.
That’s raised the stakes for brands and platforms to be able to efficiently and unimpeachably verify the authenticity of shoes, handbags and jewellery long after they leave the store.
A shared system could also help brands accelerate progress on the traceability of materials. While components like gemstones, furs and exotic leather skins can increasingly be traced all the way back to the mines or farms they came from, tracking commodities like cotton and wool remains an elusive objective for most brands.
Not being able to guarantee that their wares weren’t made with cotton harvested by prison labourers in China’s Xinjiang region, for example, is a challenge proponents say more consistent use of blockchain in fashion’s supply chain could help prevent.
Executives from Cartier, Prada and LVMH will now share power equally at the partnership’s board level. The Aura Blockchain Consortium will be governed as a non-profit, with any eventual proceeds reinvested in efforts aimed at “enhancing customer relationships as well as brand protection.”
Disclosure: LVMH is part of a group of investors who, together, hold a minority interest in The Business of Fashion. All investors have signed shareholders’ documentation guaranteeing BoF’s complete editorial independence.