According to Quantis, an environmental sustainability consultancy company, the fashion industry is projected to grow 49% between 2016 and 2030. With this increase comes a plethora of new brands, clothes and styles — but also comes worrisome ramifications on the environment and its future. The same study posited that if fashion industry-related greenhouse gas emissions were to grow at the same rate over the same amount of time, 5,945 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) gases will be produced in 2030.
As the fashion industry continues to grow, shoppers’ focus on transparency and environmental mindfulness has increased as well, and companies are responding in a variety of ways. One company that is on the cutting edge of sustainability technology is Genuine Way — and its newest collaborative initiative is instilling an awareness of sustainable fashion in brands and customers alike.
Genuine Way, a blockchain company with a goal of fostering environmental sustainability, has partnered with the sustainable fashion brand Maakola to create WearMe30Times, an environmentally conscious slow fashion initiative that encourages shoppers to adjust their fashion-related behaviors to reduce their eco-footprints by getting more use out of their clothing — the goal of which being, as the name outlines, to put at least a month’s worth of wears into their fashion pieces rather than buying new.
Based in Lugano, Switzerland and Milan, Italy and co-founded by Walfredo della Gherardesca (who is also the company’s CEO), Amelia Bassini and Luca Nardelli, Genuine Way is focused on the conscious consumption movement through the use of blockchain technology — specifically, GEN Blockchain Platform, which enables fashion brands and manufacturers to register and source corporate documentation and the environmental impact of their supply chain with the technology. GEN Blockchain Platform creates QR (quick response) codes to be connected to products, containing that product’s sustainability story and the company’s ethical values in a visually interesting, easy to understand format that is backed by Genuine Way’s due diligence analysis.
Currently, 40-plus European brands and manufacturers use GEN Blockchain Platform’s technology and tools, creating an ever-growing ecosystem of sustainable and environmentally-minded companies in the fashion, cosmetic and food space.
Founded by Aurora Chiste, Maakola is a sustainable luxury fashion brand with the core mission is to “create digital and physical clothing that don’t harm [and] instead offer the opportunity to increase social and environmental capital through an idea of beauty that stands for the empowerment and safety of people and planet,” according to the brand’s e-commerce website. With operations in Ghana, Italy and the United States, the brand offers nature-inspired collections (with names like Gaia, Circle of Life and Flora) that include coordinating blazers and pencil pants, skirts, wrap tops, high-low and maxi dresses and jackets in a variety of vibrant, bold patterns and prints that make each piece feel unique and special. Maakola is driven by “conscious beauty,” a way of thought at the heart of the brand which allows each garment to represent timeless style and embody positivity for its customers, and the use of data and the metaverse to engage with the future of the fashion world.
The WearMe30Times initiative combines the values of Genuine Way and Maakola to support fashion’s conscious consumption movement through the use of gamified technology to engage with like-minded shoppers directly. Clothing items from participating brands are assigned a unique QR code so that users can keep track of how often a garment is worn, with the goal of wearing said garment at least 30 times. This specific number of wears is inspired by Livia Firth, a climate activist, and her 2016 #30Wears campaign, which intended to encourage awareness to the ever-growing problem of waste in and the environmental impact of the fashion industry on the earth. Since then, the initiative has embraced the prevalence of technology in the fashion industry to reach an even wider audience.
Below, Gherardesca shares the recent technological advancements that have further modernized the WearMe30Times initiative, how customers can combat overconsumption with their shopping habits and how the fashion industry can improve its sustainability efforts as a whole.
Tell me about your company’s place in the environmental sustainability industry. How did you know that you wanted to contribute to change in the fashion industry?
As the CEO of Genuine Way, my effort — and our effort every day — is to envision technology that can accelerate the ecological transition. We have been very active in the fashion industry from the start, as it is one of the most polluting industries in the world.
How did you connect with Maakola to collaborate on WearMe30Times?
Maakola is a social-impact fashion brand led by a brilliant founder, Aurora Chiste. She initially was a client and friend of ours, but our relationship evolved into conversations on how we could support the ecosystem and drive it toward conscious consumption. That’s how WearMe30Times was born.
Can you tell me about how the initiative began in 2016, as well as your technologically-focused relaunch in 2020?
In 2016, the climate activist Livia Firth launched a campaign called “30 Wears Challenge.” Together with her team, Livia had calculated that the average number of times that a fashion item should be worn to be sustainable is 30 wears. Unfortunately, the studies also revealed that, on average, consumers throw their fashion items away after far less than 10 uses; in the case of many types of women’s clothing, items were noted to be thrown out after 2.5 wears. At the time, this was just a social media campaign, picked up by many celebrities to spread awareness, and a challenge that anyone could pick up and post about.
In 2020, while discussing an effective way to improve the sustainability of consumption in fashion, Aurora remembered the 30 Wears Challenge and I suggested that we could add a layer of technology and a gamification to revamp it, while making it more engaging and effective. We created a web app called “WearMe30Times” (WM30T).
Can you walk me through the mobile experience of WearMe30Times? What kinds of responses have you gotten from app users?
WM30T allows any consumer to register one of the fashion items of the many brands that are affiliated to the initiative. After registering the item, the app will enable the users to count how many times they use each fashion item, with the goal of reaching the 30 wears. The app works through social media: the first and 30th wear needs to be posted on Facebook or Instagram to spread awareness about the campaign. When 30 wears is reached, the specific brand will send you a gift or surprise!
The results have been amazing, with over 50 brands organically applying to participate in the initiative and thousands of users of the app in the first year. We are excited to think that we did push many of these consumers to hold on to their fashion items a little longer than before!
Genuine Way is the first in Europe to utilize blockchain in the fight for sustainability. What led you to the decision to incorporate blockchain in your tools? How does this technology enable customers to be more aware of green-washing and conscious consumption in the fashion industry?
While WM30T is a non-profit initiative, our core tool is called GEN Platform, which is being used by dozens of companies across Europe to become more accountable with regards to their ESG topics. Blockchain is a decentralized ledger that assures immutability and accountability of data through time: by connecting with our platform and notarizing documentation such as certificates, lab tests, patents, shipping receipts and contracts, these business are moving from the space of marketing and communication to the new dimension of auto-certification where they actually show what is happening — instead of just saying it.
What are Genuine Way’s goals when it comes to contributing to sustainability?
Our company is a blockchain provider from Switzerland specializing on ESG (environmental, social and governance) topics. We offer a platform that is used by over 50 companies around Europe to register their sustainability data on a public blockchain and bring them to their consumers. This does not only include the brand’s KPIs (key performance indicators) but its whole supply-chain and providers’ ecosystem as well. The goal [of our company] is quite simply to create more transparency and more accountability so that ethical consumers are put in the position to choose their products in an informed way.
What improvements have you seen in the fashion industry regarding sustainability since 2016? What is the biggest change, and where do you feel the industry can improve?
When Livia Firth started it all, it was still an early time for sustainable fashion. Since then, the industry has made leaps forward and we are seeing the end of “fast fashion” and the birth of new models of production and consumption.
Awareness is now definitely here, but a lot still needs to change. While sourcing new sustainable materials and lowering the energy consumption in the transformation of the product is one of the major problems [in the industry], I personally believe that the biggest issue has to do with consumption and how the brands continue to push their customers toward unsustainable consumerisms. As Giorgio Armani brilliantly stated, the time for launching two collections a year has ended; we need to consider more versatile fashion items and fashion brands need to strongly limit the size of their catalog.
Furthermore, in the spirit of the WM30T initiative, consumers need to buy durable items that they can love and hold on to for many years, as opposed to running after the next sensation.
What advice would you give to individuals who are just beginning the initiative, and who are wanting to incorporate more sustainability into their relationships with fashion?
Your mother’s vintage bag or dress is beautiful, and it may be a unique piece that cannot be found on the market currently. Use it! Be proud of slow fashion. Don’t conform to the status quo. Create a wardrobe made of a small amount of pieces that are of really high quality — this will cost you the same amount as burning through hundreds of cheap items that fall apart the second time you put them in the washing machine. It’s the same cost, but totally different results!