Dna merch – how to build a truly fair t-shirt crowdfunding / marketplace

This week there was the revision conf in Berlin, where i’ve met Anton Mantovanini from dna merch. He’s now exploring how to build a truly fair t-shirt crowdfunding/marketplace platform where everybody that contributes from the cotton growers to the garment workers to the designers to the fans of music bands that buy a shirt, gets a fair share of the value that is created.

Here’s the direct quote from him:

Full price and supply chain transparency seems a major opportunity here. It’s just the how that is currently hard to grasp for me. We already are transparent in the way that we have published the whole chain and give examples of calculations. But in the future I would like to see more direct but also automatized interaction between all partners in the chain. Basically, instead of being the middle men for others to produce with our partners, we would like to become one actor selling shirts on the future platform. And we would be the ones taking care of coordinating the overall network of actors involved in the platform, marketing the platform so there would be two revenue streams (platform fee per shirt sold + sales of own designs). I have recently heard of antifascism apparel where u can choose your end price. Not sure about the stages. And also they print on conventional basics from a big brand.

I’ve asked if he’d like to interact with the community to discuss it, and he was happy to do that (will send him a link soon). Please reply/comment if you have ideas, examples, opinions or vision for implementation. Thanks!


Thx for sharing this, Max!

Maybe to add to it. We are now playing around the idea of proceeding like this:

  1. Calculating the current sewing capacity of our core partner, a self-organised women worker cooperative from Croatia. It will most likely be around 20,000-25,000 shirts per year that they could do for us.

  2. Calculating the amount of fabric and raw material (cotton) needed to produce this amount of shirts.

  3. Developing a model that will serve to determine prices that would actually allow for living wages at the various stages in the chain if everybody would pay them.

  4. Initiating an open and transparent dialogue with all actors in the supply chain, e.g. documented via a blog.

  5. Launch of our new web platform and doing a crowdfunding with bands, unions, NGOs, artists, screen printers, designers etc who commit to do a special t-shirt with us and calling upon all their fans, members and customers to check it out and support it. Through the crowdfunding we will also offer the opportunity to become a shareholder in the platform cooperative.

How does that sound to you? Any comments, tech- or non-techrelated, are highly appreciated.

@Anton_dna_merch I really love the sound of this project, one because I love anything that is exploring novel governance concepts and two because I love t-shirts!

Based on your and @maxsemenchuk’s descriptions of the project and its goals, I think that Colony might be a really good fit.

We have this really cool reputation system that allows a project to make distributions/payouts that are weighted by the contributions/work put in.

So in your example, you could make regular distributions that would pay out to each of the participants in your supply chain relative to the value that each contributed to the whole system.

Hi Auryn, Thx for your message!

I had a look at the Colony Website and flew over the questions raised in that forum here.

Are you still looking for use cases to apply your beta version?

Some thoughts I’m having right now:

  1. We envision dna merch to become a platform cooperative with a one member one vote principle on strategic decisions that affect the respective actor in the value chain. However, we won’t be able to impose the cooperative model on all our partners along the chain. So another way of looking at dna merch is a global network of actors that through our web platform get the chance to meet on eye level and make their price setting and needs transparent to each other and the larger community of buyer/customer users. While the ultimate goal would be to include each and every worker of our conventionally organised partner companies in the process, this is hard to implement in the short run. It would require each worker to have a smartphone with an app or something like this. And this down to the cotton farmer. Therefore, we will need a system that allows us to show and track that the work done by our partner companies for a dna merch t-shirt is indeed compensated fairly as explained on the platform; especially that the calculated share per worker per piece is going to the workers. Do you think Colony is designed for working smoothly in such a complex transnational and also intercultural setting?

  2. I feel like the token system could work very well with that part of the actor community that uses the platform to create, sell and buy t-shirt designs. So whoever contributes shirt designs like graphic designers, bands etc. and increases the overall sales of the platform gets a share in profits accordingly.

  3. What are the main incentives to have an own token system in place? And how would you suggest to go about the determination of the value of these tokens? Isn’t it double work since no matter what you would first need to determine what would constitute a living wage / fair share in the respective local currency and then put it in relation to the percentage of work each partner has put in before you then can come up with a value pinned on each token.

  4. A moral question would also be if it is ok that just because living wages differ quite widely from one place to another (e.g. Germany and India) the later distribution of profits is based and relative to the amount of tokens you have. One could argue it’s fair because a share in profits of XY token aka 30 € buys you more in India than in Germany.

  5. Will the value of the tokens of each Colony applier be based on your own Colony tokens?

Anyway, these are some of my thoughts and I hope they are not too confusing :slight_smile: I’m curious to learn more about Colony and its current use cases.


TL;DR - Yes. This type of use case, with multiple disparate entities and radical transparency, is exactly the type of thing that Colony is good for.

Colony is actually designed to enable meritocracy rather than a democracy. What this would mean, in the context of DNA merch, is that each member (whether that is a collective or an individual) would earn reputation based on their contribution to DNA merch.

On launch, the functionality of reputation will be somewhat limited, but as we itterate and evolve our platform, we will enable a host of reputation weighted interactions:

  1. Payouts / Distributions that are weighed by reputation; the more value you contribute, the more you receive.
  2. Reputation-based Access / permissions; while you have more than x reputation you earn y permissions.
  3. Reputation weighted Governance, i.e. meritocracy; the higher your reputation, the more weight your vote has.
  4. and more to come

A colony would not require you to impose any restrictions on what type of entities participated.

Participants could be individuals or they could be collevtives, coops, companies, corporations, or any other entity, governed and organised in any way they choose.

Ensuring that these participants align with the values of DNA merch would be the responsisbilty of whichever whoever assigns and evaluates the work that the participant does on behalf of DNA merch.

Avery action in a Colony, including the price paid for the goods and services that your partners provide, can be completely transparent.

Agreed, this would be a great use case. And perhaps a good way to test the waters before rolling it out to other aspects of DNA merch.

  • Profit sharing based on reputation
  • Transparency
  • Merit based governance

This is a really interesting question, and one that I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to.
A couple of options (by no means an exhaustive list):

  • You could peg your token value to a currency. So participants earn native tokens and reputation on a 1:1 basis for every dollar they are paid.
    In this case, you could even use a stable token like DAI as your Colony’s native token and use Colony to handle the payments directly.
  • You could arbitrarily define specific native token / reputation payouts for different types of tasks. e.g. a new t-shirt design = 100 tokens, printing 10 shirts = 20 tokens.
  • You could distribute an even number native tokens to all active participants on regular intervals so that they get roughly one vote each. In this case participants who had been part of the Colony for longer would have higher reputation.

This is a complex issue that probably warrents its own thread.
Colony itself is agnostic to this type of ethical decision.

Personally, I tend to prefer the idea of wages that do not discriminate based on the location of the worker. i.e. if someone in India can deliver the same value as someone in San Fransico, then why should they earn any less or why should I pay the person in San Fransisco any more?

People make the argument that living wages are different in different locations, and I am by no means suggesting that anyone should be paid less than a living wage. But this argument neglects the fact that location is often a contributing factor to quality of life / standard of living. Paying someone more for the same output simply because they live in a more expensive region (presumably with a higher standard of living) discounts standard of living as a contributing factor to the “living wage”.

The value of each Colony’s native token will be determined by the respective Colony and by a free market, there is no direct relationship between the value of the Colony token (CLNY) and each Colony’s native token.

Sorry for the wall of text, hopefully I answered some of your questions and didn’t raise too many additional questions; the rabbit hole is deep!


That’s great input, Auryn! No worries :slight_smile: I’ll take a closer look at this with my colleague Doreen. In the meantime, could you point out some examples where Colony is applied already?

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Actually, is not yet live; we will go live at some point in the next month.
So we do not have any real-world examples to share yet.

We are currently looking for the first round of projects to jump on and start using the our platform.

Ok, pls keep us posted on the further developments. what are the conditions for being in the first round of projects. are you looking for testers or for actual customers?

PS: my biggest doubts are probably as to how fair a reputation based meritocracy system can be designed in our case. we would definetly need a governance that ensures that those contributors with less access to the platform (and possibly less interest and understanding of it) are not marginalized which would just reinforce the way the industry works today.

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