From virtual shopping to digital clothes, the luxury landscape is evolving with experiences beyond what its clients have been used to.

The latest innovation to be introduced? Blockchain technology.

In a collaboration even bigger than Gucci x Balenciaga, LVMH, Richemont and the Prada Group have come together for the first time to launch a blockchain platform known as Aura Blockchain Consortium (or Aura for short).

Currently, a handful of brands owned by the three rival luxury conglomerates are already on Aura. That includes French fashion label Louis Vuitton, Italian jeweller Bulgari, Swiss watchmaker Hublot (all owned by LVMH), Richemont’s Cartier, and Prada.

Through Aura, customers of these brands will get to trace the origins of the luxury goods that they purchase — down to the materials used to create them. Below, we delve into how it all works, how shoppers will benefit from it, and why the platform represents a game-changing moment for the luxury world.

(Image courtesy of Getty Images)

How does Aura work?

Aura, developed partly by Microsoft, runs on a blockchain. That’s the same technology that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are built on, as well as what enables the sales of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Essentially, a blockchain is a secure, permanent and often public record of transactions. As their data cannot be altered, blockchains are usually seen as transparent — unlike the ledgers overseen and updated by traditional banks.

For Aura, the blockchain acts as a database of luxury products. Each product will be assigned a unique digital identity, in the same way that artworks are now being connected to NFTs. Think of it like the paperless version of the certificates that often come with your luxury watches.

On these digital certificates, luxury brands will record the origins of their products. In Louis Vuitton’s case, the certificates reveal the provenance of the raw materials in their products, the factories where they were manufactured, and the store from which they were ultimately bought. You’ll be able to tell exactly what leather is used in your Louis Vuitton handbag, or what type of tanning process it has undergone.

“Every step of the item’s life cycle is registered, enabling a new and transparent storytelling,” shared LVMH.

Louis Vuitton has already been issuing certificates for its leather goods, shoes, accessories and clothes. And if you’ve bought anything from Prada in the latter half of 2020, chances are it’s already recorded on Aura. You will be able to access that information and register your Prada purchases on a new app that the Italian fashion brand is launching soon.

Louis Vuitton, along with Hermes and Chanel, is one of the most counterfeited luxury brand in the world (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Say goodbye to fakes

You know the hassle of trying to figure out if a designer bag sold on eBay, Carousell or Vestiaire Collective is authentic? Or squinting at pictures to check the logo on a Cartier Love bracelet? Or looking up the history of a used Hublot timepiece to see if a product listing checks out?

Aura is going to eliminate all that guesswork — as well as the pain of purchasing a knockoff.

With the aforementioned certificates, you can essentially track and trace any product by brands that are on Aura. And because it is a private blockchain, only the participating brands can update the information on the platform.

This is going to make shopping on the luxury resale market, which has expanded considerably in the last few years, a lot safer. You won’t be scammed into spending your money on counterfeit goods, which were collectively worth US$461 billion (S$611 billion) in 2016 — a figure that has no doubt risen since the pandemic has fuelled spikes in online sales. This will also prevent the resale of stolen luxury goods.

This is a big win for brands like Louis Vuitton, whose monogrammed handbags are one of the most knocked-off designer products in the world. And it’s a big blow for the counterfeit goods market, which often funds criminal organisations and terrorism.

With Aura, luxury jewellers can finally provide proof that they do not use blood diamonds. Tiffany & Co. is so far the only brand to do so. (Image courtesy of Tiffany & Co.)

Is there a future in Aura?

With some of the world’s biggest luxury brands already on Aura, you can bet there is.

Aura’s founding groups are already working to include the other brands in their portfolios (think Dior, Van Cleef & Arpels, Panerai and Montblanc). Also, the blockchain platform is now open to all luxury brands around the world, from major independent players (such as Hermès and Chanel) to those with niche, smaller businesses.

Aura will be especially appealing to luxury jewellery brands, which have long struggled to provide diamond traceability. (So far, only American jeweller Tiffany & Co. offers an in-depth look at its supply chain, ensuring that their gems are sourced ethically and sustainably.)

Quality, traceability, transparency and authenticity — these are what today’s luxury customers are looking out for when they make their pricey purchases. And with Aura, they’ll know exactly what they’re getting.

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Header image courtesy of Getty Images

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