Blockchain of Fashion
Nora Gherbi – Interview. Blockchain and its Place in the Fashion Industry
Nora Gherbi is the founder of WHOCAREs!?, a New York based international caring initiative. An avid reader, Gherbi studied International Relations, literature, fine arts and American ethnology in Alberta, Canada. She adapted various ethnology theories to explain the relationship between personal development and cultural identity
Blockchain is set to significantly disrupt the fashion industry by removing the opacity of the apparel supply chain. This is a game changer, simply because many parties are typically involved in the production of a piece of clothing
Nora Gherbi is the founder of WHOCAREs!?, a New York based international caring initiative. An avid reader, Gherbi studied International Relations, literature, fine arts and American ethnology in Alberta, Canada. She adapted various ethnology theories to explain the relationship between personal development and cultural identity. As a result, she wrote an essay on the development and preservation of Canadian Cultural identity. She is the founder of WHOCARES!? Chronicles, an initiative aiming to promote and provide insight into everything related to CSR (Corporate social responsibility). WHO CARES!? Chronicles focuses on great leadership and best practices for the socially conscious business. Nora is on the advisory board of several non-profit, tech and fashion companies and is also a member of Blockchain Fashion Council.

How do you think blockchain has the potential to overhaul supply chain by tracking movements of products and information?

Blockchain is set to significantly disrupt the fashion industry by removing the opacity of the apparel supply chain. This is a game changer, simply because many parties are typically involved in the production of a piece of clothing. Transparency in the supply chain is not something that is/was easily accessible for both consumers and businesses. Blockchain will drastically transform the process on every level of the production platforms.

You mentioned in your speech at the first Blockchain Fashion Conference several examples of where blockchain is already being put into practical use, such as by a UN food program, can you expand on that?

There are several examples of blockchain technology in voting systems, in energy distribution and in healthcare but one of my favorite one is the food program from the UN. The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) is deploying blockchain technology to make cash-based transfers faster, cheaper and more secure. Through blockchain, they manage to cut payment costs, better protect beneficiary data, control financial risks, and respond more rapidly to emergencies. It is providing solutions not just for the WFP but for the entire humanitarian community. The possibilities and applications are endless.
WFP's system relies on biometric registration data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and uses biometric technology for authentication purposes. Refugees purchase food from local supermarkets in the camp by using a scan of their eye instead of cash, vouchers or e-cards. The system is already in place in Jordan.

Blockchain is tipped to be useful in identifying counterfeit products, production, inventory control, warehousing, distribution, logistics, and tracking. How will this foster transparency and trust?

Blockchain is a way of organizing data through a distributed ledger, that is, a body of information that is shared among many people and places. This can speed up transactions while lowering the chance of fraud or data mismanagement. The ledger records transactions in a secure manner that cannot be changed. It allows any two parties to transact directly, and removes the need for third-party intermediaries such as banks. Counterfeit products, diverted goods (diverted from its original destination), stolen merchandise (trace and locate stolen merchandise), fraudulent transactions –will be preventable and therefore provide a sort of DNA test for goods and services. In a sense, blockchain is mimicking the DNA pattern recognition system. The same pattern recognition technique provides thorough analysis finding the "genetic code" of a good or a service or transaction. Blockchain to me is a biomimetic technology. The accuracy of DNA pattern tracing is mimicked onto blockchain traceability and hopefully fosters more trust.

Why do you think the fashion industry has been so slow to embrace new technology?

One case study that I find fascinating in slow or no adaptation to technology is Kodak – Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975, at that time Kodak's executives feared investing more into digital "film" thinking that it would cannibalize their business. Instead of taking the leap and embracing their innovation they chose to continue with their initial yet limiting business model. They eventually went bankrupt as other industry players seeing the opportunity instead of fearing it reaped the benefit of the digital "junction". The same goes for fashion; I think there is a lot of fear based hesitation. Other industries such as architecture or design have successfully embraced new technology. I do believe that directing creativity towards ethical fashion can push for more innovation in fashion: the use of new technologies to create new skills, alternative production methods, and the evolution of traditional technologies to adapt.

If we look at blockchain as essentially a community generated map, where do you see it being able to transform the fashion industry into one that is more caring?

The past five years have been a turning point - rethinking the entire clothing industry seems challenging but not impossible. It starts with a different consumer's mindset and a younger generation of consumers that are demanding entirely different items and of course more transparency. Sustainable, ethical clothing are finally being on the forefront. People want to know what they are wearing; what is the impact of the garment (hopefully a good one).
Abuses and environmental and labor tragedies are hidden in the complexities of the supply chain. Fashion is the second most polluting industry next to oil and energy, a fact few people even know.
Knowledge is really the new luxury, knowing where our items come from or what are their effect on us, from a health point of view and from of consciousness point of view. I think, blockchain can provide peace of mind, knowing that the garments we purchase are contributing to a fair, safe and a more empathic industry. A close-knit community, transparency, exchange, knowledge, the ability to "put ourselves in the garment workers shoes" are the building blocks of a more caring industry and surely if blockchain can provide that then it will create an entirely new fashion world. We have many reasons to be optimistic.