We recently had the opportunity to speak to Lorenzo Albrighi, the co-founder and CEO of blockchain-powered circular fashion platform Lablaco. As half of the duo behind the first company to apply blockchain technology to fashion, Lorenzo has been at the forefront of disrupting the linear fashion system, especially in the luxury market. In this interview, Lorenzo explains the nitty-gritty of how Lablaco contributes to sustainable fashion, future innovations in the industry and what this means for the accessibility of conscious shopping.
Founded with a mission to make fashion circular, Lablaco is a global social commerce platform that uses blockchain to enable traceability in preloved clothing, allow customers to earn Lablacoin discounts and ultimately closing the fashion consumption loop. The company has recently partnered up with Lane Crawford’s LUXARITY Preloved Pop-Up to enable customers to receive the traceable history of each preloved garment.
GQ: What was your main reason for starting Lablaco?
LZ: We wanted to be able to elevate sustainable fashion through blockchain. Blockchain has been around for 10 years now, accompanied by huge adoption in business-to-business and cryptocurrencies, but we didn’t see blockchain being brought to the hands of customers. Blockchain history typically stayed within the supply chain. So what we are trying to do with Lablaco is to break this wall, to let customers be a part of the history of each item in the circular fashion ecosystem.
GQ: Can you break it down for us: in simple terms, how does blockchain support the traceability of luxury preloved fashion?
LZ: So this year, we worked with Luxarity for this pop-up at Lane Crawford to enable traceability of secondhand luxury fashion garments and accessories. All the items here come with a QR code, which anyone can scan using their phones, and all the information will come up automatically. From where the garment had been worn, who owned it, and even a personalised message from the previous owner – everything is transparent. Blockchain enables this open data for customers to freely access, something that is often a concern when it comes to luxury and preloved items.
Blockchain is the tool here, but underneath this tool, we have also built a community based app to bring blockchain into the consumer world. Each person’s username in the app becomes a part of the purchase history, a unique URL for each user. It’s particularly relevant for luxury fashion because it would eradicate the possibility of counterfeits to be circulated.
GQ: How does blockchain make it easier for customers to understand the environmental footprint of fashion?
LZ: We help to make it easier for customers to understand what sustainable fashion means. When you scan the code on each item, we package the information simply, including information about the garment’s eco-footprint. We want people to understand the resources used to manufacture it, and hopefully encourage more conscious and circular habits.
GQ: What is the next step up or innovation for Lablaco in sustainable fashion?
LZ: We are continually evolving. We want to keep building better tools, not just for our company’s growth, but to build something that is circular and entirely transparent for the fashion ecosystem. This means that we have to scale-up. So our goal is to go higher up in the supply chain and look at products at the production level to precisely trace for the customer the entire history of a product from the source to their hands.
Currently, we are working on embedding these QR codes directly into the clothes to get rid of the need for tags. These codes can be sewn or woven onto the garment! We’re working on a project in Shanghai where recycled fabrics from deliveries are used to create sustainable fashion items, with traceability provided by blockchain.
GQ: How do you calculate the environmental impact data for each item?
LZ: For the moment, we are going by category and the average resource use and wastage of each item within the category. But once we start collecting data further up the supply chain, at the production level, we can get more accurate data. If we manage to achieve what I hope – to be able to go higher up and tokenise items at the production level – then we can get to-the-point data for each garment.
GQ: What is the ultimate goal for Lablaco?
LZ: Ultimately, we want to help create a circular, sustainable and transparent fashion system where we reduce resource use, pollution and wastage. It’s about creating a measurable standard for customers for “impact design,” based on each product’s materials, production practices, social or community impact and environmental footprint. This will ultimately give our customers a full picture of what is behind each product.
GQ: Do you think that the accessibility of this technology will pose an issue to those consumers who aren’t familiar with this digitised form of getting information and blockchain?
LZ: I always say, it’s like music. Music was digitised by MP3, but the music itself doesn’t change. Online or digital payment has already been around for years, and most customers are familiar with it now. In terms of blockchain in sustainable fashion, the interface is on your phone and on that level it doesn’t change. It’s just that now, with blockchain as the tool, it gives people information transparency in addition to the scan and pay.
GQ: Do you think that this is inevitable?
LZ: Yes, and it’s not just us. We just had a conference in Paris called the Circular Fashion Summit, we saw that big brands and companies are also working on this. Blockchain will become the MP3 of fashion. And the cool thing is with blockchain is that there is no one who owns this information, it is completely democratic and there is no conflict of interest from different parties who might have motives to hide certain data from the customer.
GQ: What about in terms of fashion, do you think that sustainable fashion will truly be the future?
LZ: Of course, our goal is to push for impactful fashion, and I am hopeful because we see this happening more now. Reconditioning and secondhand, especially luxury items, is definitely becoming popular. With blockchain providing the traceability – the value-added to luxury preloved items – we believe that more people will embrace recirculation.
Lead image of Lablaco founders Lorenzo Albrighi and Kuo Shih Yun courtesy of Green Queen.