When Amit Gautam, winner of Global Change Award 2020 by H&M Foundation, decided to start working on TextileGenesis™, he started with a simple question: how can brands be more transparent? 40-year-old Gautam, a graduate from IIT Bombay and Tepper Business school at Carnegie Melon, then started working on developing blockchain technology (which essentially makes the history of any digital asset unalterable and transparent) that can help trace and authenticate sustainable fibres.
At a time when most fashion brands are trying to use sustainable textiles, this technology will act like a digital fingerprint, which can not be altered regardless of how many times the material is used and recycled. With the Global Change Award, Gautam has received the grant of €1,50,000, which he will now be using to put turn his dream into reality. In an interview, Gautam reveals how this technology can be great for tackling counterfeiting, his favourite sustainable projects so far and why sustainability and commerciality can go hand-in-hand. Excerpts from the interview:
ELLE: When did you start your TextileGenesis™?
Amit Gautam: Before starting TextileGenesis™, I was heading the textile business for the Austrian leader in sustainable fibres, Lenzing. In my customer meetings, it was becoming clear that the traceability and authentication of sustainable fibres (example: TENCEL, Recycled polyester, Responsible Wool) in the fashion industry is becoming a critical challenge. The majority of top 100 fashion brands have announced 100% sustainable fibres target in the next 3-5 years, however, less than 5% of brands can track their products from fibre origin to retail. This is what I call “transparency gap”. In 2018, we decided we want to bridge this gap through our Fibercoins™ traceability technology started working on TextileGenesis™.
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ELLE: How does TextileGenesis™ work?
AG: Our platform allows digitisation and traceability of any textile asset such as fibre, yarn, fabric, or garment through fibercoins® (patent pending). Any sustainable textile player can issue fibercoins™ directly linked to his textile asset.
ELLE: What were some of your findings during your intensive grass-root discussions?
AG: Counterfeiting is a major issue in the fashion industry. It is estimated that about 30% of all sustainable fibres (like organic or recycled) could be fake. Fashion products look simple but the supply chain is highly fragmented, global and long. This makes the value chain opaque.
ELLE: Which are some of the sustainable brands you look up to?
AG: I was a Saree, Fashion Revolution, Fashion For Good, Good On You and Armed Angels.
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ELLE: Do you think sustainability and commerciality can go hand-in-hand?
AG: We have some great examples, starting from the iconic sustainable brands like Stella McCartney to upcoming brands like Reformation, which prove that it’s not only possible but also scalable.
ELLE: What are some of the exciting things lined up for you?
AG: We are currently in the Beta+ phase, and expect to go fully commercial in the second half of this year. We are expanding our traceability offering from wood-based cellulosic fibres into recycled polyester and wool. Given that China plays an important role in the textile supply chain, we plan to offer our solution in (simplified) Chinese language at the time of commercial launch.