Generative AI-produced pictures of imaginary Nike collaboration sneakers have circled social media for weeks. But that’s just one example of how AI can be used in fashion; its uses are already valuable and vast, spanning marketing, engineering and immersive experiences.
AI has stirred buzz in the last month, thanks to new and increasingly user-friendly AI tools. Just last week, on March 20, image editor Adobe Firefly and graphic design platform Canva rolled out new AI technology supporting text-to-video and brand design, respectively. These specific launches further prove AI’s usefulness for visual content creation. And that’s just the start of it.
Industry experts predict that AI tools will allow for quicker, more seamless workflows, allowing workers across fields including marketing, operations and engineering to focus on more creative and problem-solving tasks. “This is one of the fastest moving and potentially most impactful trends that we see on the tech landscape today,” said Roger Roberts, partner at consultancy McKinsey and co-author of the December 2022 “Generative AI is here” report.
Next-level personalization of products and experiences for consumers — through e-commerce sites, targeted ads and in-store experiences — is among the use cases set to benefit retailers. To date, personalization has largely been done through micro-segmentation by grouping customers according to their interests, age group or location.
“You’re going to see a lot more automation, which you have to have if you want to deliver hyper-personalization,” said Brian Long, CEO of personalized mobile messaging platform Attentive. On Monday, the company announced Attentive AI, a tool allowing brands to create complete, multi-channel campaigns using AI and insights on effective content from 1.4 trillion Attentive data points. So far, a major retail brand using the tool in beta is reporting a 148% revenue increase.
“A lot of brands are going to our generative image-making platform to generate a marketing image that leverages products in their product catalog, paired with background and foreground imagery based on text prompts they enter. They’re then personalizing the image’s setting, lighting and other elements,” said Long. The AI uses a database of images paired with the text prompts to select fitting setting elements. “In some cases, that results in a production-ready image that they can send out. In other cases, it can help them figure out what they’re looking for in the final shoot.” Long said the tool allows brands to customize marketing imagery for different geographical regions at almost no cost.
Attentive AI develops copy for the campaigns, as well.“Our biggest challenge has always been getting our marketing copy completed in a timely manner,” said Jason Edwards, director of e-commerce at streetwear brand Hat Club. “The main surprise is just how close to final Attentive AI allows us to get our copy before we step in and finalize. We will be able to significantly cut down our content creation time, which in turn will allow us to build out better campaigns and better segment our customers.”
Visual merchandising and collection creation
AI could also solve problems with visual merchandising. As brands open more store locations, they need visual merchandising that expresses the brand identity globally but is also tailored to the context of each store. Head visual merchandisers rarely lay out every store in a brand’s fleet due to costs and time constraints.
“If you were able to train learning programs, based on the instincts and intuitions of your best virtual visual merchandisers, using AI, then you could bring their voice, style and capabilities to each shop door each season,” said Roberts.
Roberts also noted the creative applications of AI for businesses. “Brands will be able to use generative AI technology to synthesize notes, sketches and ideas for a collection. […] With AI, these can then be combined with operational and financial perspectives, as well as merchandising and marketing, to create a collection at a price and a margin that is sustainable for the brand and good for the customer.”
For it apart, Levi Strauss & Co is using AI to show a wider range of diverse models on its website and other channels. “We’re also using AI to enhance and differentiate our loyalty program by offering personalized benefits to members, which is helping us achieve meaningful growth in enrollments, revenues, and app registrations,” said Dr. Amy Gershkoff Bolles, global head of digital and emerging technology strategy at Levi Strauss & Co. For example, personalized benefits include localized discounts based on popular products in the area. “Since expanding the loyalty program in Europe last year, the brand has reached 5 million members worldwide.
“AI helps us provide personalized product recommendations on our website and mobile app,” based on consumer data from specific markets, said Gershkoff Bolles. “We’re also leveraging consumer mobility data to customize our stores to the unique needs and interests of local consumers, and open new stores where we have the greatest demand.”
Finally, she said that AI is powering Levi’s promotions by analyzing stock for which categories and products are most likely to benefit from being on sale. She noted examples including mid-season and end-of-season sales, as well as Black Friday sales in the U.S. and Europe.
Some web3 brands are already implementing AI into the creative processes. Charli Cohen, founder of 2-year-old web3 brand RTLSS, said her studio has used generative AI to speed up coding development work by allowing the AI to create code, which has optimized workflow. She is also using it to create user-generated content.
“We are progressively integrating more AI through this year,” said Cohen. “Our next drop will use AI to gamify both the minting and post-mint experience. Our UGC toolkit, which we’re currently building, will also include back-end processes like validating assets and managing IP protection; they’ll be automated and enhanced by AI.”
AI can be used to analyze an NFT’s blockchain transaction history to ensure the NFT is the original and not a duplicate. It can also analyze the content of NFT art to ensure that it’s original and does not violate copyright laws.
One physical fashion brand active in web3,Tommy Hilfiger, is experimenting with AI to engage customers in co-creation. Specifically, during Metaverse Fashion Week. it’s giving consumers the opportunity to design items in the brand’s signature preppy style using generative AI.
Even fashion shows, which have already undergone somewhat of a transformation, are set to undergo change due to AI. Matthew Drinkwater, head of the emerging technology company Fashion Innovation Agency, has been experimenting with AI uses for the catwalks since leading an AI-focused course at the London College of Fashion during the pandemic. With students not being able to showcase their final work in 2020, Drinkwater worked with the FIA using archival show footage and skeletal data from the moving models to create a virtual runway show. The project was reimagined this year to include photorealistic models and AI and was released on March 21 via LinkedIn.
“The earlier catwalk had a huge amount of manual labor work involved,” said Drinkwater. “While that’s not to say that this wasn’t the case this time, as there were very specific skill sets required to deliver this with the tools, creating this kind of experience is much more [manageable]. That’s especially with the availability of AI tools like text prompt-to-video, which AI platform Runway AI launched this week.”
“The video component is going to take it to the next level of engagement. The images are obviously very cool, but when it’s a video, people stop and look and take their time,” said Long.
For the runway project this year, the FIA used AI prompt tools Midjourney and Stable Diffusion. They took images from luxury brands that they were inspired by, trained the AI model to understand what those looks were and then applied the looks to one particular male model to create a photorealistic video. Drinkwater agreed with Roberts that the human element is even more necessary within fashion’s experimentation with creativity and AI. However, he said, the new photorealistic opportunities will help to facilitate the mass adoption of digital fashion.
To note: AI is faster to implement than the metaverse
With the metaverse, “a combination of many things has to come together in the right way to create a really great experience. That’s not the case with AI.” said Roberts, explaining, “Your current software can add features that will just make it better. It doesn’t require everyone to show up with headsets or create entirely new platforms. That’s why there is a shorter hype cycle, from everyone talking about AI to people using it and it having CFO-relevant impact.”
With companies aiming to cut costs due to recession-related concerns, AI use could be leveraged to cut labor costs. “Its bottom-line impact suggests that this is something that needs to be top of mind for the CTOs and the CFOs. In many cases, it will replace repetitive parts of human work, allowing staff to carry out projects more quickly — but it cannot be a replacement.”
Drinkwater added, “It’s the combination of things that we can put together, like our use of machine learning, artificial intelligence and immersive experiences, which will start to deliver those next-generation immersive experiences.”
Image courtesy of Christiane Lemieux.