PATRICK DUFFY IS THE FOUNDER OF Global Fashion Exchange. HE FILLS US IN ON HOW BLOCKCHAIN - TECH’S CURRENT FAV TOPIC - IS GOING TO POWER THE FUTURE OF CIRCULAR CLOTHING.
Image via Patrick Duffy
WARDROBE CRISIS: Patrick! This is exciting (and demands exclamation points!!) Tell us about Swapchain. PATRICK: “I had no idea the universe was going to drop this in my lap, but it did! On a trip to Paris last year (ahh the days when we could travel) I was invited to speak at the Circular Fashion Summit as a catalyst for my work with Global Fashion Exchange. I was supposed to discuss my work, journey and findings via the swapping and sharing economy on a panel with other pretty amazing change-makers. When I was invited, I must admit, it was not really clear to me what blockchain was used for and luckily at the dinner party the night before the event, I met Circular Fashion Summit Founders Lorenzo Albrighi and Yun Kuo. “Right then and there I coyly asked asked “Soo…..what does blockchain ACTUALLY do?” and when they explained it to me, in terms I could understand, a lightbulb went off! It was like magic. I said, “OMG SWAP-CHAIN”, and from there we decided to make it 'a thing'. We announced it at their summit the next day and the rest is history!” WARDROBE CRISIS: Why is circular fashion important to you? We happen to know that you used to work on a door of a nightclub wearing sky-high cherry red Manolo Blahniks. Can we swap them?? PATRICK: “How do you know that?! They are long gone alas. But circular fashion just makes sense, right? I mean, continuing on a downward spiral of destructive processes to make a little extra short term cash is just downright dumb. It’s like that old story about teaching someone to fish (except I am vegan and actually we shouldn’t be overfishing the oceans like we are now). Maybe that’s a bad example, but what we can extract from this is that we need solutions now that get us to long term goals that don’t deplete or destroy the little we do have left as we will need it to get back to a healthy and harmonious people and planet. “We need to look at the long term vision and make it work for everyone and everything. I also find joy in ideating on how we can eliminate the use of toxic chemicals, create exciting and reusable designs from, high-quality materials, either from reclaimed or recycled resource swap and share and more. I haven’t always been this way but I do want to continue to see creativity thrive and think that shifting the lens in which we look through can be an asset instead of an avoided obstacle.” WARDROBE CRISIS: How can blockchain be used in fashion? Also, what even is blockchain anyway? PATRICK: “Many ways! We are really re-writing the rules with SwapChain and SPIN. As my partner business Lorenzo says, ‘We need to change the KPIs [key performance indicators] of fashion.’ Blockchain is the tool we have access to that will help us get there. “Imagine it like this: years ago records were actually sold en mass, and the number that was sold was how success was determined for a record company and an artist. Like, I would be successful if I sold 1 million records. “Now it’s different, we don’t really sell records, we have things like MP3s and Spotify, which introduced downloads, views and plays, thus changing the KPI. We have gone from millions sold to billions viewed. “The same can be executed in the fashion industry. As an example with SwapChain/SPIN, one of our metrics for success is about recirculation - how many times was this swapped and shared. We have invited brands and companies to participate, which has been very successful. Teaching them to look at their companies differently, where profit can come from, how to make sure all aspects of the supply chain are thriving and make it fun, cuz it needs to be fun! Hypothetically, if we get all products connected, we can work towards maximizing and extending their lives with the byproduct of reducing waste or harming the environment just by reusing and recirculation of the items.
WARDROBE CRISIS: But how does the tech actually work? What processes do you use? PATRICK: “The first step is to track where an item comes from. This can be someone’s closet, or even better: high in the supply chain. We are connecting clothing high in the supply chain from seed to sales floor (or swapshop) and working with a wide range or people, indigenous groups, farmers/growers, artisans, fashion mavens, small and big brands, and of course swappers all over the world. One important thing about SwapChain + SPIN is that it permanently records every step in a product or material lifecycle. This includes the location or origin of the product, customer ownership and videos or photos of the items journey to our closets. Our broader goal is to keep items in circulation for longer and provide solutions for people and brands when the lifecycle of an item is in need of a new direction. “It is also really important is proving authenticity of an item, the materials it’s made from, and where it actually came from. When you can harness this, you have a huge advantage not just for the business but also tackling the social and environmental impacts. With so many issues plaguing the fashion industry each step in the chain is critical and important. From managing waste to worker welfare to even accounting, harnessing the data to help save the planet is absolutely something we need. One step further, by putting this information in the hands of the customers, people like you and me, we become better equipped to manage our own impact and hold brands accountable for practices that may, or may not, be good for people and planet. Transfer ownership of clothing creates community, awareness and is also a great educational tool for anyone!” WARDROBE CRISIS: Where do you see all this in 5 years? PATRICK: “On a planet that is liveable, equitable, safe, just, and fabulous for all. Dear Hay-suz, I hope we get there, and with the movement of youth that is taking the reins of the old and outdated systems, I look forward to the creativity that lies ahead.” WARDROBE CRISIS: What is the next big fashion innovation? PATRICK: “Material innovations such as Modern Meadow, Pangaia, Econyl and more… there is so much amazing innovation out there, but for me it’s about reprogramming our brains. At the end of the day, the want, need, and desire for more has created a huge mess which I very much have contributed to in my own lifetime. Companies want to sell us more so they can make more money, we want more because we have been trained to think that more is better.“
Interview by Claire Kalikman. Like this? Check out our latest New Gen Talent interview with sustainable fashion designer Haya Khalifa, who’s bringing sustainable practices to the Arabian peninsula. Listen to Patrick on episode 35 of the podcast here.