Luxury veteran Daniela Ott has been named general secretary of the Aura Blockchain Consortium, formed last April when LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Prada Group and Compagnie Financière Richemont joined forces to promote the use of a single blockchain solution open to all luxury brands worldwide.
Ott was chief executive officer of hotel group Eden Being, part of the Oetker Luxury Hotel Collection, for three years before founding Agape Strategy Consulting in 2019, but is probably best known for her long career at Kering, where she had been CEO of the Tomas Maier fashion house, chief operating officer of the French group’s luxury division, and a director of strategy at its Gucci and Balenciaga brands.
Her mission at Aura is to “enhance the luxury customer experience through authentication, traceability, sustainability and personalized service.” She reports to the consortium’s board of directors.
“Daniela’s appointment is an important milestone,” said Toni Belloni, group managing director of LVMH. “We are glad to have her on board to promote our common objective to further raise industry standards and attract other luxury brands to our alliance.”
“Daniela is an exceptional leader,” added Cyrille Vigneron, president and CEO of Cartier International and a member of Richemont’s board and senior executive committee. “Her nomination is a strong signal of our determination to enhance customer service thanks to our blockchain technology.”
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In a Zoom interview, her backdrop an intergalactic tableau, Ott said she would initially focus on three areas:
– enabling the consortium as a “safe space for competitors to collaborate,” with a “from brands, for brands” ethos;
– making blockchain, still a “daunting and complex” technology, accessible for large and small brands, and ensuring that Aura remains at the forefront of technological innovation;
– creating and driving existing standards of traceability, upstream and downstream in the supply chain.
Bulgari, Cartier, Hublot, Louis Vuitton and Prada are already keyed into the platform. Depending on a brand’s strategy, this can allow consumers direct access to a product’s history, proof of ownership, warranty and maintenance record.
Ott cited many expressions of interest in Aura, and noted that two brands would come on board in the coming months, but she declined to reveal them at this stage.
While the founding members are focused on luxury fashion accessories – primarily leather goods, watches and jewelry – Aura recently had an approach from a luxury furniture maker, leading to interesting discussions.
“The issues we face are pretty much the same across all luxury sub-sectors,” Ott said, noting that Aura plans to go broad and could envision interest from makers of perfume, luxury wines and spirits, cars, yachts and even jets.
According to Ott, the Aura blockchain is gaining traction because it is a permission-based platform that ensures an important degree of data privacy. Certain enabling technologies, if they are generic enough, can be shared across members who can mutualize the cost.
Another point of differentiation is that Aura operates as a non-profit entity. Ott noted that future financial gains would be reinvested in technological capabilities.
Aura charges brands an annual licensing fee – there are three levels of membership – and a small per-unit cost when an item is registered on the blockchain and issued a digital passport, she noted.
Each member gets one vote at Aura’s annual general meeting, where its technical roadmap will be fixed. “So I can have, if I may say, the luxury to listen as much to the small brands as to the big brands. I believe big brands can learn from small ones and small ones can learn from big ones.”
She noted that only brands can become members of Aura, however various suppliers, retailers, marketplaces, technical partners, institutions, associations and academia would become an important part of the Aura ecosystem that she will assemble and animate as general secretary.
Leveraging her experience building and leading interdisciplinary teams, said she would “drive change in the luxury industry by addressing the shared challenges of communicating authenticity, responsible sourcing and sustainability in a secure digital format” that will enhance consumer trust in luxury goods.
The blockchain will allow a jewelry purchaser to have information on ethical sources of diamonds, for example, while someone buying a luxury handbag could view videos documenting the manufacturing process.
Initiated by LVMH in 2019, the Aura platform was developed in partnership with Microsoft and New York-based blockchain software technology company ConsenSys, and the consortium will operate out of Geneva.
The emergence of secure digital identities for luxury goods comes at a time when the commerce of online counterfeit and knockoff products is accelerating along with online fraud and the sale of stolen luxury goods. A blockchain provides clarity on where an item was originally purchased and when it is offered for resale, which will cast a spotlight on gray-market trading, such as China’s thriving daigou networks.
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