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  • Writer's pictureEesha Bhagwat

Is AI Helping or Halting Creativity in Virtual Fashion?



Artificial intelligence, AI, has quickly gathered attention in the professional world. Some see it as a way to advance creativity and up technology to the next level, while others consider it a threat to creative careers. The fashion Industry has recently implemented AI in several sectors including publishing, design, and retail. A report from McKinsey estimates that the use of AI can up operating profits in fashion and luxury by $275 billion.  AI has been especially helpful in virtual fashion, the creation of fashion through 3D software. But could the immediate uptake of AI harm the industry in the future? 


AI in Fashion Publishing

AI is being used in several major fashion publications such as Vogue, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar for multiple purposes, one of the main ones being photography. Fashion editorials revolve around high-end photography to single out garments. We saw AI models grace the cover of Vogue Singapore’s March 2023 cover. The AI avatars in the AI-generated photos were to represent diversity among Southeast Asian women.

AI has already been used to create a new fashion publication called COPY. The magazine is completely generated with AI from images, to designs, to written editorials. The founder, Carl-Axel Wahlstrom, came up with the basic idea and used AI to create the publication. In his interview with Vogue, he claims AI-generated models can help with diversity and push the boundaries between reality and fiction, but that the models represent an uncanny valley in the way they look, almost flat. He also states that AI cannot recreate what we call 2010 fashion or decade fashion, as it looks at the clothes as a whole instead of what we decipher are the big moments of decade fashion. So it is not able to generate its own ideas or decipher between the original trends and repeated trends decades later.   


AI in Fashion Design

AI appears in several sectors, one of which is fashion design. At AI Fashion Week in April 2023, designer Alena Stepanova used only AI to create a virtual fashion show consisting of AI avatar models with AI fashion design. Stepanova faced criticism for her complete AI designs which seemed rather dull for AI, very basic and plain. However, AI has been shown to be extremely helpful in terms of design, especially in leveling the playing field for less wealthy designers. AI is used for 3D modeling of possible designs, with the ability to sub in different fabrics and materials. This is still created by humans but the use of AI speeds up the design process. 

AI has also advanced the supply chain, especially for companies like H&M and Zara which use them to promote sustainability by managing wasteful fabrics and overproduction. This is a big step for sustainable fashion, if more companies used AI to monitor their sustainability, it would limit the use of greenwashing, water waste, and the production of greenhouse gasses. AI monitoring overproduction would help with the build-up of fashion waste in landfills. 


AI in Retail

AI has helped the retail industry on both the customer and employer side. Retail recently started using virtual try-ons to assist consumers in their purchases. This helps the consumer figure out if the piece they want will look good on them instead of only using the model as a reference photo. This also helps the company save money on returns and increase customer satisfaction reports by using AI for virtual assistance on the website. Ai is also used for personalized offers from the customer's shopping profile.

More on the brand's side, AI is being used for trend forecasting, so rather than companies waiting to see what people want next, AI can detect the patterns of past trends and current shopping behaviors to analyze what the customer wants next. This can save money in production as the clothes less likely to be trending won’t be as mass-produced. 


Concerns for the Fashion Industry

While AI seems promising for increased profits, what harm could it do to fashion? Fashion is an industry built from the concept of individuality, expression, and creativity. AI is just a robot, for now. That means it can’t create its own ideas but rather recycles past ideas in different ways. For now, AI is being used on par with designers, but if companies start using AI over designers to save money, we will see a progression of assimilation, where everything begins to look the same. Ai has already begun replacing models, photographers, and writers in fashion publications. With AI avatars being used instead of real people, we will see a shift in the beauty standard to become more AI-oriented and less human, meaning more airbrushed skin, thinner people; almost an uncanny valley effect. However, this won’t be completely possible for people to achieve since they will try to model themselves after a virtual creation. 


Conclusion

Artificial intelligence is not a trend, it’s an addition to the new workforce that’s here to stay. It’s hit all sectors of the fashion industry to increase efficiency and profits and to create a new next-level look. But while it helps companies and independent designers, for now, it seems the dangers of AI will be presented within the near future in creativity and individuality, with ethical dilemmas already presenting themselves in high fashion publications. As technological advancements push us towards virtual fashion, AI has become more present than ever with no signs of slowing down. 


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