Is digital tagging the future for sustainable fashion?
The Fashion industry is responsible for one-tenth of global carbon emissions and its business model usually relies on us discarding old clothes and buying new ones. In order to create a more circular fashion economy and implement resale and rental business models, each garment would benefit from an unique identification code and a way to track the item along its journey from the customer to repair or cleaning, back into the rentable inventory, and back out to the next customer. In order to facilitate this circular fashion model, each garment needs a digital trigger.
A digital trigger gives the customers access to some data about the garment such as its care instructions and fibre content and allows them to engage with the brand regarding their purchase and the production process behind that specific item.
One of the options is to include a scannable QR code on the care label, although the challenge is keeping the QR code on the garment for its entire life, as care labels are often cut off by consumers.
A second option is an NFC (Near Field Communication) tag embedded in a woven label, which is extremely unlikely to be removed. In this case, the brand would need to find a way to make it very clear to consumers that it is present in the woven label and needs to spread awareness of how to download and utilise an NFC reader on a smartphone, whichin the long run, is not a sustainable choice.
The final option of digital trigger that can be applied is an RFID (radio-frequency identification) tag, which is used on hang tags or packaging to track products through their life cycles. However, these tags often do not meet wash standards, which not ideal as readability over time is essential.
Some brands such as Adidas, Scotch and Soda, Vince, and LOFT are already trying and testing QR codes and resale programs to promote a circular economy within their consumers.
New York start-up Eon has been recognised as a leading platform with the potential to speed up the move to a more circular economy in fashion. The company is giving each new fashion item a digital birth certificate with a physical tag and a QR code or a RFID chip, which includes information about where and when it was made and what it’s made from. This is also linked to a ‘digital twin’, a virtual replica of the real product, and a digital passport that tracks the product through its life. Being the first digitization platform to connect products across their whole lifecycle, Eon has partnered with fashion brands and retailers like Net-a-Porter and H&M, textile makers and resellers like Reflaunt, Save Your Wardrobe and Salvation Army Trading Company. With the process facilitating the resell and repair of each item, the result should be less landfill waste.
These digital triggers allow for new levels of transparency, as brands can show the supply chain journey of the garments and clothes can be validated for authenticity. In addition, by allowing consumers to scan items into a digital wardrobe, brands can also create new revenue channels on digital platforms by facilitating consumers to resell their own used clothing. In order for the industry to become circular and sustainable, all fashion brands need to embrace the implement of some sort of digital trigger for each garment sold, and promote resale, reuse, recycle.
Information sourced on fashionunited.uk and weforum.org
Featured image by Markus Spiske on Unsplash