Last year was a big one for hype around digital technology. The buzz surrounding cryptocurrencies, blockchain and AI across the news and social media was borderline overwhelming.
I personally didn’t quite share in the enthusiasm, as I couldn’t really place these stories into real-life scenarios that would directly affect or benefit me. The idea of The Echo feels lazy to me and I don’t care much for Siri (or Bixby, being a Samsung user). To be honest, the main tool using machine learning that I come into contact with is the Spotify suggestion algorithm which finds new music based on audience similarities. I will admit that it is pretty cool, but I’m still not particularly fussed about it.
The reality of how it can impact people hit home when I visited a talk during London Fashion Week Men’s on “The Future of Fashion”. The fear for job security in a field where creativity is key was evident in the young designers I spoke to.
How do they compete against machine learning and artificial intelligence?
Fast fashion houses are now implementing new product lines consisting of AI-generated clothes into their ready-to-wear collections. It’s a clever amalgamation of data on customer cut and colour preferences, and sell-through success, coupled with some good old fashion trend forecasting insight that enables high street retailers to launch ‘smart’ collections. These consist of full ranges of seasonal products, available to the mass market with a 2-4 week turnaround, designed from start to finish without a human involved.
A very scary thought for young designers, one would think? Well, it shouldn’t be unless you strive to work in a giant fast fashion house (which most people won’t). Niche products designed by people will always have appeal. In this day and age, such technological advances may be more dangerous for big brands with big overheads, who can very easily fall behind the competition by simply not being up-to-date with technology.
But this isn’t the only application of AI within the fashion market. Retail is being pushed to its limits with brands offering new and exciting solutions to customer engagement. Creating unique experiences is more important than ever when trying to keep customers interested and key to helping provide a more immersive and interesting purchase experience.
In recent news, Guess? have partnered with the $40 billion multinational conglomerate, Alibaba. The new venture operates across retail, e-commerce, AI and technology, in order to develop a brand-new smart concept store. The cutting-edge store uses smart mirrors that allow customers to select product, which can help the AI inform individuals of suggested products that are currently in stock. Product is then brought directly to consumers, providing a more efficient solution to a mundane task. The simple application of AI in this new shopping environment eliminates the need to trawl through product, or for staff to constantly restock shelves, and can help maintain stock loss and inventory.
Personally, I think the concept sounds extremely interesting and I’d love to see how accurate the suggestions were, and if the shopping experience would be more enjoyable or more efficient.
Fashion and technology are at an exciting intersection and AI is one of the many things that has only been touched on. An exciting time for those on either side, who are able to dip their toes into another industry and gain a fresh perspective on how two seemingly unconnected industries can have huge impacts on each other.