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Clothing tags evolution: the digital implementations through online applications

Product lifecycle tracking, placement of QR codes and scanning via apps or digital platforms, advice on garment disposal and post use

New frontiers of clothing labels

A revolution in apparel labeling is underway, and it seems to create labels that go beyond content statements to communicate product information, such as washing instructions and material composition. The label is perhaps the smallest part of a garment, considered quite insignificant until a few years ago and today capable of making a difference, if it is an integral part of a brand’s communication plan. Some leading fashion-related sustainability companies have realized the importance of creating content related to this label by engaging the entire supply chain. The problems of pollution and unidentifiable waste were the engines behind this research in terms of products recognition and classification. Two key drivers in developing clothing tags have been the growing demand for transparency by brands in the production process and the need to have all the information for disposal at the end of the item’s lifecycle. Sarah Swenson, Global Senior Sustainability Manager at Avery Dennison, points out the importance of communicating clear information in order to reduce the amount of discarded clothing by being able to guarantee a life in the second-hand market or in the recycling of materials. Eon CEO Natasha Franck affirms that the tracking will enable the switch to a regenerative economy model. Brand authentication can be another aspect favored by these digital labels, through which garments can be checked and sold again by resellers. The difference between digitized products and connected products is that connected products can make information available for third party stakeholders as recyclers or resellers, having access to input from a larger ecosystem.

Lampoon reporting: traceability technologies, QR codes, digital apps

At the basis of traceability in the production process there must be a willingness from the brands’ side to communicate their work in a transparent way. Going all along the supply chain to be able to record the individual steps, it can be done through blockchain technologies with a scientific precision but also through other digital devices provided starting at the level of the farms where the materials are produced. Swenson confirmed that traceability at the manufacturing level of materials can be challenging, in particular at the farm level because of the lack of digital instruments. Avery Denninson company is developing projects with local manufacturers in Bangladeshi factories to have direct control. EON technology instead does not operate at the material level but partners with material traceability solutions to track the components of a product. After that EON creates a digital certificate for the garment and follows all the phases of its creation, the data about the effective composition cannot be lost and works as a digital passport, specifies Franck. Later during the production process live data are created in order to interact with customers, such as CO2 consumption. Central to the supply chain steps tracing is the use of scanners, in the event that blockchain technologies are not used, which make it possible to signal the arrival of the material and its evolution by marking the product with a specific code. Avery Denninson also uses staff checking through this scanning and uploading data to a webapp via computers. Passing through the chain the final digital applications used by consumers are connected to these codes that can show everything a brand decides to disclose to the customer, from the production process to the closest points of drop out at the end of the product life cycle. Both technologies connect consumers with digital features that, in addition to product information, display disposal information and other content made available by brands.

Ambercycle Molecular Regeneration Laboratory

The central relationship between brand and consumer

The product continues to exist when, after being bought, the brand is able to maintain a constant and direct relationship with the consumer. Considering this new communication frontier to digitally engage and activate consumers can be a way to expand brands’ strategies and touchpoints. The customer is a stakeholder in the circular value chain and in the brands businesses; its centrality can’t be only limited at a transactional level, where also the product loses its contact with the brand, states Franck. The ever-increasing demand for accurate information from more conscious consumers may be just one place to start for brands that need to communicate their sustainability in a technical way. The next step is to understand how to enable a behavior that makes the brand itself able to reuse its products in the supply chain. Certain brands try to take steps to offer prizes or rewards when a customer returns a used garment as vouchers that can be spent on new products or discounts. Engagement works by creating QR codes that can provide access to a sort of summary of the identity of the garment. This allows one to be able to classify and then divide the pieces according to different criteria such as quality and authenticity of the product, composition of materials, state of wear and use and then to decide the appropriate destination, which can be resale or recycling. The high consumption of clothes nowadays makes it almost impossible to dispose of each garment correctly and this accumulation can be linked to the loss of contact with the brand that does not provide guidance to the consumer and with the product itself, of which abandonment is not understood. One solution could be, as Swenson says, to create a link within the entire supply chain by reconnecting brands and consumers through a post-consumer garment recycler like Ambercycle. The latter take over old garments to create new fabrics that can be used by clothing brands.

Circular economy in the fashion field

Considering the social and governmental objectives to be achieved within environmental sustainability, many brands are trying to reach the requirements starting from the extended producer responsibility. This aims to make the companies adopt remanufacturing initiatives by focusing on the end of the product life cycle in order to increase their recoverability and reduce the environmental impact of waste materials. Some governments have established specific legislation and in some sectors, businesses are committed to demonstrating that they have taken back products placed before on the market and put them back into their supply chain. The impact that circularity can have in the fashion field is high and allows brands to conform to the objectives set in different countries. Tracking technology makes it possible to be aware of internal processes at the firm level, but also to showcase the achievement of these environmental goals with concrete data. Using this tracking system encourages the application of the circular economy methodology but it becomes critical to enable that by allowing brands to reach their goals and, as Swenson states, labels are now the first place consumers go to look for information to understand which is the next use that suits better for an item. Stakeholders have to understand how to reuse a garment at the end of its life cycle so that they can easily reach the authentication level and then resell the garment or understand the types of fabrics used so they can recycle them. Controlling the entire supply chain and reusing materials allows brands to improve the quality of recycled material by going through an upcycling process rather than a downcycling one. Through digital labelling products and materials are connected and each can be identified, managed and monetized through a linked, circular lifecycle; putting the idea of a circular economy as the basis of a business model transformation, affirms Franck.

Eon

The company is active into the digital transformation and the consequential consulting to a business model switch for other businesses. It promotes an ethical and circular model of commerce providing connections between producers and customers.

Avery Denninson

The company is a leader in the labelling sector, promoting innovation both on the materials science and at the manufacturing level.

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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