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Luxury fashion labels Louis Vuitton, Prada and Cartier are joining forces for the Aura blockchain project.

Blockchain explored by Louis Vuitton, Prada and Cartier to fight counterfeiters by guaranteeing the authenticity of luxury fashion items

  • Luxury fashion labels see blockchain technology, which cannot be hacked, as offering clients an additional guarantee of authenticity
  • With the market in fake goods worth nearly US$1 trillion a year, blockchain could help with luxury product returns, and boost second-hand and auction sales

LVMH, Cartier and Prada are joining forces to offer a blockchain solution for their customers seeking an extra seal of authenticity for the goods they’re buying.

The alliance of the world’s largest luxury-goods makers plans to make a blockchain-enabled solution available to all luxury brands to provide shoppers with assurance what they’re buying is authentic, the companies said in a joint statement. It will also make the products traceable in a transparent way.

Blockchain technology is a digital way to certify a transaction by providing an encrypted certificate of guarantee, LVMH managing director Antonio Belloni said in an interview. Such certificates have long existed in the industry, but blockchain’s reputation as a so far unhackable tool means this project, called Aura Blockchain, may work better.

Louis Vuitton plans to join forces with other luxury labels to form Aura Blockchain. Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

At stake for luxury brands are billions of dollars worth of revenue lost to counterfeits. The global trade in counterfeits will hit US$991 billion by 2022, almost double the level of 2013, according to research firm Frontier Economics. That estimate includes luxury goods, consumer products and other categories including pharmaceuticals.

Aura Blockchain is likely to evolve since it’s still a young technology, Cartier CEO Cyrille Vigneron said. Cartier has already tested one feature with online product returns, which allows shoppers to take a photo and upload it on the blockchain to prove that the condition of the product they’re returning hasn’t been altered between the moment they received it and the moment they shipped it back to the brand.

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“It’s something simple but it means the trust between the two parties is enhanced,” Vigneron said. He added that auction houses might be interested in using such products when they sell fine art.

Belloni said the consortium is a way to set an industry standard rather than have each brand develop their own solutions separately. Aura Blockchain is in contact with other luxury groups but Belloni declined to say which brand may join next. The client data encrypted onto the blockchain won’t be accessible by rivals, he added.

Within LVMH, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari and Hublot have already tried the technology, while Tiffany is the next “obvious” candidate, he said.
Cyrille Vigneron, CEO of Cartier.

“Trust is the one key on which our industry is founded and one we really want to preserve,” Belloni said, adding that all clients, but particularly younger ones, are concerned about the issue.

Such solutions may also allow people to sell second-hand luxury goods with more ease.

While the technology is enabled by blockchain, there are no plans to accept payments for such goods in cryptocurrencies, both executives said. Microsoft and ConsenSys are helping the luxury groups develop the technological infrastructure for this solution.