Italy’s OTB Group Joins Aura Blockchain Consortium as Founding Member – WWD

VENICE — OTB is joining the Aura Blockchain Consortium, becoming its fourth founding member.

Signaling the importance of the move, Stefano Rosso, board member of the OTB Group and board member of Aura Blockchain Consortium; Lorenzo Bertelli, head of marketing and corporate social responsibility at Prada Group and president of the  consortium, and Franck Le Moal, chief information officer of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Group and vice president of the consortium, met Thursday evening with a handful of journalists at the Venice Casinò, in the exquisitely frescoed 17th-century Cà Vendramin Calergi overlooking the Grand Canal.

“This is a great day, and it’s officially the first time we meet physically,” Le Moal said. “It’s a great initiative for our industry to really develop technologies that reinforce the customers’ trust, the first time big players are partnering together on this new platform that offers huge opportunities.”

LVMH, which in 2019 initiated the Aura platform, was joined last April by Prada Group and Compagnie Financière Richemont in the Aura Blockchain Consortium, which promotes the use of a single blockchain solution open to all luxury brands worldwide to help consumers trace the provenance and authenticity of luxury goods.

Rosso said OTB’s goal is “to provide our strong contribution to this strategic collaboration focusing on a circular business model, transparency for the customer, innovation and sustainability.”

The first OTB Group brand to enter Aura will be Maison Margiela, followed by Jil Sander and Marni, hopefully between January and February. Asked why Margiela would be the first, Rosso said simply that it is “ready in terms of digital organization” compared to the other labels. OTB, founded by Renzo Rosso, Stefano’s father, who also attended the event with chief executive officer Ubaldo Minelli, also comprises Diesel, Viktor & Rolf and a stake in Amiri, as well as production arms Staff International and Brave Kid.

The arrival of new members “has to do with digital maturity,” concurred Bertelli. “We speak with many companies, this was never meant to be for few and OTB has the right mix — like in a recipe, with the right ingredients,” he said with a smile.

“The ambition is to create new standards,” Bertelli continued. “The goal is to send clear and transparent messages to customers,” noting that the consortium would soon close the number of founding members and that, at the same time, there is no limit to the number of regular members that can join.

The arrival of OTB stems from a simple phone call made last summer by Rosso to Bertelli, inquiring about the consortium.

In fact, Le Moal said there were no specific preconditions necessary to be part of the consortium, apart from being a luxury brand. “We are really open to small and big companies alike, and we aim to make this technology easier,” he said, citing the Aura Light as such an example.

Bertelli and Le Moal underscored that each brand has its own strategy. Labels such as Bulgari, Cartier, Hublot, Louis Vuitton and Prada each developed their own experience, according to its strategies and customer expectations, Le Moal explained. Asked about feedback from customers, he said it was too early. Prada, for example, will be ready at the end of the year.

Bertelli did not disclose the amount invested in the technology. “The purpose is to be inclusive and allow small brands to also have access,” he said.

Rosso said joining forces was “not really about the new generations. I see members of the Camera della Moda working together. It’s a moment when there is a need to form a united front, helping one another, coming together — also in defense.”

Bertelli concurred. “What I see is that the younger generations understand that it’s no longer enough to communicate the beauty and craft behind the products, but it’s also their moral duty to be transparent with the customers who seek sustainable products and need to know that the price they pay is justified in this sense.”

The Aura Blockchain Consortium has accelerated its activities in the development of the technical roadmap and upcoming projects, including the release of Aura Light — a SaaS solution for brands that wish to participate in Aura without having the necessary internal resources to develop their own systems and are therefore looking for an easy solution to implement — and the development of an NFT solution for luxury brands.

OTB has been preparing to be part of the consortium for more than a year and a half, with data inserted in the products and developing the RFID technology with its suppliers.

OTB’s is seen as reinforcing the consortium and making its technology even more impactful.

The platform gives consumers direct access to a product’s history, proof of ownership, warranty and maintenance record.

Known as a “multinodal private blockchain,” the platform records information in a secure and non-reproducible manner and generates a certificate for its owner, increasing the trust of customers in the brands’ sustainable practices and product sourcing.

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, where it is headed by general secretary Daniela Ott.

The blockchain also offers a weapon against counterfeiters and gray-market distribution.

Participating luxury brands pay an annual licensing fee, which is reinvested in technology, and the consortium is not-for-profit.

“We are happy to welcome you in Venice, we are very much connected to the territory,” concluded Rosso. “This wonderful city has suffered so much through the pandemic, and we want to give a signal of hope.”

“This is a magic city,” Bertelli added.

“And there is no better place that can offer tradition and modernity at the same time,” Le Moal said.

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