What is Blockchain and What Does it Have to do With Fashion?

Blockchain technology made its runway debut during Shanghai Fashion Week in November. BABYGHOST, the New York/Shanghai-based brand founded in 2010 by Qiaoran Huang and Joshua Hupper, who met while working for the (now defunct) label, Nathan Jenden, incorporated the technology into their Spring/Summer 2017 collection. The label made its foray into fashion tech as a result of a partnership with BitSE, a Shanghai-based blockchain start-up created by IBM, Louis Vuitton, and Alibaba alums, and its anti-counterfeiting smartphone app, VeChain.

What is blockchain, you ask? It is one of the core components of the popular digital currency, bitcoin. Per Fortune, “Blockchain is actually a way to structure data, and the foundation of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. This coding breakthrough—which consists of concatenated blocks of transactions—allows competitors to share a digital ledger across a network of computers without need for a central authority. No single party has the power to tamper with the records: the math keeps everyone honest. Forty of the world’s top financial firms are experimenting with the tech.”

To be precise, BABYGHOST equipped its S/S 2017 designs with blockchain-enabled Near-Field Communication (“NFC”) chips, which are able to authenticate the origin of the product when any smartphone is connected to the chip to review its contents, which, as according to Hupper, may also include tapping into photographs, videos or personalized information. As a result, the NFC chips allow consumers to interact with the garment.

The two BABYGHOST founders are enthusiastic about the technology, saying: “With an action as simple as what we've become so accustomed to doing when we add friends on WeChat, this technology needs only to be swiped in proximity to a garment and in an instant our customers can exchange what we thought of as the next generation of playing cards. Imagine that each garment now goes from being one of many to a one of a kind. It can literally speak to our fans similarly to the way that we love communicating with them via social media.”

They elaborated: “VeChain can be programmed with photographs, videos, and even personalized information such as the date it was purchased and perhaps whom it was purchased for and why. This could change gift giving between friends, family and lovers. It could mark special occasions and holidays. We thought this was an amazing way of hiding secrets or telling stories behind the inspiration and graphics that we choose.”

“Blockchain has become a disruptive technology, but it is really difficult for most people to understand. A lot of enterprises have been attracted to blockchain technology, and the real motivation for them is to develop the new products, features and services for their clients by embracing this technology,” according to Sunny Lu, COO of BitSE. “Our mission is to transform this sophisticated technology to a real-world commercial application and make it enjoyable for consumers. That is VeChain, and that is what VeChain has done with BABYGHOST – bringing digital experiences to their consumers and enable them to build up a personalized connection with the products they own.”

As for whether we will see further technological advances from BABYGHOST’s Huang and Hupper, it seems likely. They said: “The possibilities of the blockchain technology for our label, which almost exclusively sells online, feels endless, and we are extremely excited to see where it may develop from here.”

Oh, and do not forget this technology's anti-counterfeiting and authenticity-ensuring benefits, which could certainly prove extremely beneficial for brands in the fight against widespread sale of fakes to even well-meaning consumers. Stay tuned for more on this front; there certainly will be further developments.