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Arket testing blockchain tool for supplier storytelling

H&M has quietly rolled out a blockchain proof of concept (POC) for a single product on sale at its Arket brand, giving consumers access to the provenance of the item.

Arket's blockchain beanie
Arket’s blockchain beanie

H&M has quietly rolled out a blockchain proof of concept (POC) for a single product on sale at its Arket brand.

A beanie hat comes with a tag attached to it that brings up a blockchain experience when scanned. The result is a decentralized view on traceability of a single item.

Users engaging in it can learn about the story behind the product and its origins. The initiative is in collaboration with blockchain startup Vechain, and can be scanned with either a NFC reader or the VeChain mobile application. Resulting content includes where the item was made, what it’s made from and washing instructions for the user.

The experiment was discovered by a consumer who soon posted it on Twitter. The accompanying video to that Tweet has since resulted in 20,000 views.

This focus on storytelling and provenance from the H&M group comes as a time when the industry is increasingly driving towards transparency. Arket was one of the first in the market to publish the supplier details of individual products on its website, and continues to innovate to find new ways of doing so.

Blockchain is an interesting choice nonetheless – one that is hyped as a buzzword, but still somewhat shrouded in mystery for the industry in terms of understanding its real use cases, as well as the benefits it draws beyond a standard database.

A deep-dive into the reasons Arket is doing it has already sprung up on Reddit, with users speculating as to the advantages presented. As one user said: “Truth is, no one really knows the extent that blockchain will play in the future and in what industries it will succeed. Everything right now is a POC with regards to blockchain.”

There’s also a heavy point to raise as to whether the immutability of the technology – thus the idea that products can be authenticated by the trustworthy platforms on which they are being captured – can ever really be relied on for the very fact there are still human beings involved. That leaves margin for error as well as corruption.

The entire notion of transparency in the industry is one that is shifting at rapid pace nonetheless, with greater trust and reliance placed on those things being revealed compared to just a few years prior. H&M group’s head of transparency, Nina Shariati, for instance, shared on the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent, the fact that it was only 10-15 years ago H&M used to lock its supplier list in a safe in Stockholm, with only five people having the code to get to it.

POC or not, the use of blockchain is evidence the company has not only come a long way since, but continues to lead in thinking about innovations that could be useful and applicable to the industry.

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By Rachel Arthur

Rachel Arthur is Editor-in-Chief of Current Daily, the leading news source for fashion, retail and innovation, and the co-host of its weekly Innovators podcast. She otherwise serves as Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Current Global, a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion luxury and retail. By background she is an award-winning business journalist and consultant, contributing to titles including Wired, Forbes and Business of Fashion.