Editor's pick sustainability technology

Arket testing blockchain tool for supplier storytelling

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.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

Editor's pick Podcast sustainability

H&M’s head of transparency on why industry-wide collaboration is critical

Nina Shariati, who is responsible for transparency at H&M, on TheCurrent Innovators podcast
Nina Shariati, who is responsible for transparency at H&M, on TheCurrent Innovators podcast

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. That move was about competitive advantage, Nina Shariati, who is responsible for the retail group’s transparency efforts worldwide, explains in our most recent edition of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

A disclosed supplier list is now old news for the business, but it kickstarted its goal to have transparency as a red thread through everything it does. “It’s been a journey,” Shariati explains.

Her role is to set the strategy connected to what type of data it wants to be transparent with and to then make that happen. The group’s most recent efforts including adding a layer of transparency to the actual product pages of its new Arket brand, for instance.

That sort of move is all part of a wider effort to become a more sustainable organization. H&M’s focus is to offer “fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way”. More specifically it has ambitious goals to be 100% leading the change, 100% circular and renewable, and 100% fair and equal.

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The question is whether the second largest clothing retailer in the world can really ever be considered eco-conscious and sustainable while pumping out fast fashion?

The fact is millennial consumers seem to be more concerned about manufacturing practices and their effects on the environment than ever, Shariati explains. “We see it as a positive thing that we are a large company where we have [these ambitions] and we see that with the help of our size we can drive this change that we want to see.”

But she argues that this sort of consumer awareness is only possible if there is collaboration industry-wide. “Many challenges that we face as a brand are big challenges that are being recognized in the industry as a whole… No single brand can come up with a solution,” she explains. “What we want to do with transparency is to set a measuring index that harmonizes the industry, so you can compare your product across brands. We are far from the time where it’s ok to work in siloes.”

The ultimate goal, she notes, should be to empower consumers by enabling them to make more informed decisions. “Some consumers are aware some consumers will be more aware, and eventually we will have this harmonized way of measuring things. When that’s in place then consumer can make more active choices.”

TheCurrent Innovators is a podcast about the leaders pushing the boundaries of fashion, beauty, and retail. Hosted by Liz Bacelar and Rachel Arthur, and distributed by MouthMedia Network, each episode is a frank conversation about the challenges and opportunities faced by top brands and retailers around the world today, through the lens of technology. Check out some of the other highlights, including an interview with Stefano Rosso, CEO of Diesel, and William Tunstall-Pedoe, founder of the tech behind Amazon Alexa.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

business digital snippets e-commerce product social media sustainability technology

What you missed: Amazon’s AI designer, sewing robots at Nike, AR iPhone apps

Inside the Grabit robots making Nikes
Inside the Grabit robots making Nikes

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the past fortnight.

  • Amazon has developed an AI fashion designer [MIT]
  • A new t-shirt sewing robot can make as many shirts per hour as 17 factory workers [Quartz]
  • These robots are using static electricity to make Nikes (as pictured) [Bloomberg]
  • A preview of the first wave of AR apps coming to iPhones [Techcrunch]
  • In a Zara world, who orders custom clothing? [Racked]
  • What happened to wearables? [BoF]

  • sells majority stake to Apax after fierce bidding war [NY Times]
  • Making sense of Chanel’s secret filings [BoF]
  • Is Nordstrom the next acquisition target for Walmart or Amazon? [RetailDive]
  • North Korea factories humming with ‘Made in China’ clothes, traders say [Reuters]
  • Is counterfeiting actually good for fashion? [HighSnobiety]
  • C&A Foundation highlights ‘gaps to overcome for clean and circular fashion’ [Fashion United]

  • ‘Game of Thrones’ actor Maisie Williams will kick off new Twitter series for Converse [Creativity]
  • How Instagram and Snapchat are benefiting from Facebook’s declining teen and tween numbers [AdWeek]
  • Facebook furthers WhatsApp monetisation efforts with verified business pilot [The Drum]
  • Condé Nast and Facebook are debuting a virtual reality dating show [AdWeek]

  • Zalando turns festival into three-day live marketing campaign [BoF]
  • Donatella Versace works with eight creatives for new versus ads [WWD]
  • 40% of consumers want emails from brands to be less promotional and more informative [AdWeek]
  • In first-ever TV ad, Patagonia targets Trump administration [MediaPost]

  • What is Amazon, really? [Quartz]
  • How Westfield is combating the Amazon threat with digital upgrades at its malls [Digiday]
  • Betting on brick-and-mortar: Alibaba’s billion-dollar retail experiment [Forbes]
  • H&M’s Arket encourages transparent shopping on its new e-commerce site [WGSN]
  • Uniqlo’s retail empire embarks on a digital revolution [Nikkei]
  • Farfetch Black & White partners with Certona to offer personalised e-commerce to luxury brands [The Industry]
  • Shopify’s e-commerce empire is growing in Amazon’s shadow [Bloomberg]
  • Voice search, 3D modelling and chatbots named as 2017’s most significant e-commerce trends [The Drum]

  • 11 tech leaders share the real truth about artificial intelligence (and what really matters) [Forbes]
  • How Bitcoin is making waves in the luxury market [CNN]
  • How blockchain could boost the fashion industry [BoF]
  • Walmart and Google partner to challenge Amazon’s Alexa [Retail Dive]
  • Google and Vogue are bringing voice-activated content from the magazine to home devices [AdWeek]
  • Latest Magic Leap patent shows off prototype AR glasses design [Techcrunch]
  • ‘Self-driving’ lorries to be tested on UK roads [BBC]

  • Everlane’s quest to make the world’s most sustainable denim [Fast Company]
  • The zipper: the innovation that changed fashion forever [Bloomberg]
  • A new high-tech fabric could mean the end of bulky layers in the winter [Quartz]
  • Watch how Vans can now put any custom design on your shoes in under 15 minutes [Fast Company]
  • How RFID tags became trendy [Engadget]
  • Leather grown using biotechnology is about to hit the catwalk [The Economist]
  • These brands are teaming up on smart hang tags [Apparel Mag]
business digital snippets e-commerce film mobile social media Startups technology

What you missed: Nike scavenger hunts, AI changing how we shop, Reebok’s Oscars letter

Nike's scavenger hunts
Nike’s scavenger hunts

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the past week.

  • Inside the wild world of Nike’s high-tech scavenger hunts [Mashable]
  • No clicks required: Artificial intelligence is changing how we shop, Boxed CEO says [CNBC]
  • Reebok just sent an open letter to the Academy Awards asking for a new award to honour fitness trainers [AdWeek]
  • The evolution of retail personalisation, in five charts [Glossy]

  • Aldo to buy Vince Camuto in a merger of shoe brands [NY Times]

  • Dior and Louis Vuitton are the fashion brands with best Instagram Stories engagement [BoF]
  • How H&M is using Instagram to drive buzz for its latest brand, Arket [Digiday]

  • Shoemaker Kickers capitalises on FOMO to spur purchases [Digiday]
  • Boohoo enlists all-female crew for #AllGirls ads, but critics claim diversity vision is lost in casting [The Drum]
  • Female empowerment imagery more effective than sex appeal in ads, says Facebook [The Drum]
  • The fashion influencer has found a new gig [Refinery29]

  • 3 things retailers can do to compete with Amazon [Retail Dive]
  • GGP looks to revive its malls with interactive concept stores [Glossy]

  • Streetwear brands are tapping the creative power of AR [JWT Intelligence]
  • The end of typing: The next billion mobile users will rely on video and voice [WSJ]
  • Here’s what you need to know about voice AI, the next frontier of brand marketing [AdWeek]

  • With “return bars” and “returnistas”, Happy Returns is eliminating the hassle of returning online orders by mail [LeanLuxe]
  • This virtual try-on system for clothing might actually work [Engadget]