Artificial Intelligence and its Impact on the Fashion Industry

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the fashion industry in numerous ways, from digital lookbooks and personalized shopping tools to outdoor advertisements that eliminate the need for human models. Global companies like Valentino, Moncler, and online retailer Revolve have already embraced AI in their campaigns, and most have been positively received by both the industry and consumers.

However, this rapid integration of AI into fashion has sparked concerns about the ethical implications and potential ramifications for the industry. Australian model Robyn Lawley recently raised her voice against the use of AI avatars without consent, after discovering a digitally altered image of herself created by an AI photo library. Lawley argues for stricter regulations regarding the use of AI in the fashion industry, stressing the importance of body acceptance throughout her career.

Lawley’s concerns are not unfounded. Deepfake images and videos have become increasingly prevalent, with celebrities like Taylor Swift falling victim to their distribution. Lawley worries about how long it will take for the “fake Robyn” to replace the “real Robyn” in the industry.

To address these issues, some experts advocate for more stringent regulations and the implementation of labeling and watermarking for AI-generated content. However, the response from governing bodies has been slow, as seen with the recent announcement by Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, regarding its plans for content detection and labeling on their platforms. The government has also called for voluntary labeling and watermarking, posing challenges in preventing the proliferation of “good” AI while curbing the misuse of AI-generated material.

While the fashion industry in Australia is still in the early stages of AI integration, international trends suggest that it is on the verge of a breakthrough. ShowPo, a digital fashion company, tested AI models in 2022 to showcase their styles on a wider range of body types. This experiment reflects the potential AI holds for diversifying the representation of beauty standards in the industry.

The captivating promise of AI in fashion comes with a delicate balance between innovation and controversy. The Levi’s brand, for example, faced international backlash after using AI models to promote diversity on their website. Critics accused the brand of laziness by employing AI-generated models instead of hiring live models from marginalized communities. Levi’s defended its intentions, asserting that the move was not meant to replace real models or undermine its commitment to diversity.

AI’s potential to add significant value to the fashion industry, estimated at $150 billion by McKinsey research, is undeniable. However, the cost of AI’s unchecked expansion remains a valid concern. Chelsea Bonner, founder of Bella Management, a modeling agency, has witnessed multiple technological transformations in the industry. She emphasizes the need for regulation and ethical considerations, reminding us how Photoshop once contorted perceptions of reality in the field.

Marianne Perkovic, the president of the Australian Fashion Council, recognizes both the potential for AI to create new job opportunities and the potential disruptions it may pose for certain sectors. The council is seeking funding in this year’s federal budget to aid the development of skills and professional pathways for those whose roles are affected by AI.

Lawley highlights the urgency of the situation, sharing stories of creative professionals who have quit the industry due to the adverse impact of AI on their livelihoods. Awareness of the rapid progress and potential consequences of AI is crucial, not only for the fashion industry but society as a whole.

As AI continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in fashion, it is essential to strike a balance between innovation and the preservation of human talent, diversity, and ethical considerations. The fashion industry must proactively address the challenges AI presents and ensure its responsible and inclusive integration into the future.