If fashion is used to coming out of codes, it seems that when it comes to QR, it is an exception. To have more information about a garment, simply bring your phone and take a picture of the barcode visible on the label. Material composition, environmental impact, place of manufacture… Each brand is free to reveal the underside of its clothes. What is this QR code used for? How is information collected and verified? Should we trust it or be wary of it? The answers here!
What is the QR code used for in the garment?
Slowly but surely, the QR code is set up on our labels
Unlike the food or cosmetics sector, the QR Code takes longer to set up in fashion both among brands and in the minds of consumers. There are many reasons.
Few studies and/or scandals deal with the direct impact that clothing or its manufacture could have on our health. Both for the person who wears it and workers exposed to toxic products and fumes released during the dyeing stages, the transformation of leather or the sanding of jeans.As a result, the interest in the traceability of a garment may be lower than for a cream applied to the skin or an ingested food.
Also, the legislation does not require a mandatory origin marking on clothing. The only obligation imposed on fashion brands is to communicate the composition of the product as a percentage and in the language of the country of marketing.
A wealth of information for the consumer
Placed on the composition label of the garment, the QR Code allows us to have access to the information that a brand wishes to reveal. More or less in-depth, fun or immersive, the product sheet can consist of labels, certificates, videos… For example, Maison Patou reveals the original sketch by artistic director Guillaume Henry. Like a passport, the QR Code is useful throughout the life cycle of the garment, whether in the case of a second-hand purchase or a sorting fiber recycling.
A tool for brands
If the QR Code is most often mentioned as a solution to restore the transparency of information towards consumers, it is initially a working tool used by brands to secure their value chain.
In the fashion and textile industry, supply chains are made up of many intermediaries themselves scattered around the world.The problem of traceability has been raised for years. From the Nike affair and sweatshops to the exploitation of Uyghurs to Rana Plaza, scandals related to working conditions reveal the lack of traceability between a brand and the links in its value chain. To this social problem related to clothing is added the environmental dimension and that of animal welfare.
Where does the information really come from?
Checking a course requires time and pedagogy. In particular because the textile value chain is very fragmented and also because it is enough that a link in the chain does not want to give information to break the continuity of the chain.
Specifically, the QR Code discloses the information collected by:
- The Blockchain, an aggregation and security system allowing encrypted, tamper-proof, dated traceability. The traceability of a garment starts from the moment the order is launched. Then follows the collection of the material, spinning, weaving / knitting, finishing, making, shipping, receiving …Throughout the steps, the actors fill out the questionnaires relating to their actions and transmit the certificates of conformity and transaction. Throughout the supply chain, the blockchain engages the responsibility of the person who deposits the information. An alert system in the back office notifies a person of the trademark who validates the information filed as and when. When the product is placed on the market, the brand assumes the final responsibility. It cannot integrate into its QR Code information that is not on the back office and Blockchain traceability.
- Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) assesses the environmental footprint of a garment using data collected including the weight of the material, the amount of water, phosphorus, etc. This calculation is carried out by specialized engineers.
Can we trust the information disclosed by the QR Code?
As a consumer, it is difficult to discern the true from the false of the speeches of fashion brands. In front of us, there are two types of information:
- Declarative information that does not induce verification.
- Tangible proof.The QR Code falls into the second category. Each fashion brand has the obligation to transmit an integrity of information, to provide and verify the proof of its purpose.
The Blockchain allows encrypted, tamper-proof, dated traceability. In addition to all precautions, the organizations guaranteeing the traceability of the brands’ sectors verify the data conveyed by the actors by:
- Working with experts in certifications and traceability.
- Going to the field to attest to the authenticity of the data communicated by the various actors given by the supply chain.
To ensure the authenticity of the guarantees on the products, the DGCCRF (Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention) and the certifying bodies have strengthened their controls. For example, on clothing labels, there are strict regulations to follow: brands are not allowed to write “organic cotton” or “recycled polyester“, they must put asterix.