New York Fashion Week officially came to a close last week as the unveilings of many Spring/Summer 2024 designs from fashion staples to up-and-coming designers graced runways with celebrity sightings from Hollywood it-girls Blake Lively, Winnie Harlow, and Sofia Richie to Billboard artists Swae Lee, YG, and Ella Mai.
But apart from new spring trends ranging from pedal pushers, slouchy shoulders, cinched drop waists, and corset lacings, along with asymmetric necklines, pops of white and lilac, and avant-garde silhouettes, another notable, emerging trend that could potentially take the fashion world by storm is AI fashion.
While dystopian fears of AI’s evolution across various industries have cast a slight shadow over the emerging technology’s many use cases, Hillary Taymour’s unveiling of her Collina Strada Spring/Summer 2024 collection at New York Fashion Week flaunted a more progressive take on AI as a tool to enhance creativity in the fashion industry.
“Everything sucks. We’re all doomed. The world’s on fire, but we’re doing a fashion show because that’s what we know how to do,” Taymour told Vogue days before the show.
Collina Strada is a fashion brand centered on climate awareness, social awareness, change, and self expression. The eco-conscious fashion designer, Hillary Taymour, is headstrong on incorporating sustainability practices into her fashion line utilizing rose sylk, an eco-friendly, biodegradable organic cellulose fiber made from rose bushes and stems, deadstock fabric, which turns unwanted landfill fabric into something useful, and recycled cotton.
But what happens when fashion meets at the intersection of technology? Disruptive innovation in the fashion industry.
According to McKinsey and Company, generative AI could add between $150 billion to $275 billion to the apparel, fashion, and luxury sectors’ operating profits. This can in turn set a new precedence for creativity as unstructured data sets in the forms of raw text, images, and more can translate into realistic 3-D designs to boost productivity in the fashion realm.
Generative AI in the fashion industry can also be leveraged in certain go-to-market use cases such as supply chain and logistics, marketing, store operations, digital commerce, and consumer experience to predict trends, automate and scale consumer segmentation, generate and test store layout plans, facilitate virtual styling and try-on assistance, and more.
Taymour debuted her AI-influenced fashion designs during her “This Is Fine”, meme-inspired Collina Strada SS24 Soft Is Hard runway show on the rooftop of Brooklyn Grange, against the backdrop of “Why are we here, the earth’s on fire” lyrics sung by musician and collaborator cast in the show, Oyinda.
When Taymour and her team fed all of Collina Strada’s previous collections into an AI model, what yielded in return were photorealistic Collina Strada-esque aesthetics that—with the aided touch of human refinement—bred the looks for the Spring/Summer 2024 lineup, designed to “reconnect to the universal feminine energy during a time of political and social strife”, according to Taymour’s runway notes.
“Hillary is very inclusive—probably one of the most inclusive designers I know,” Oyinda told Vanity Fair during the Spring 2023 show last year.
Known for injecting fantasy into her looks, Taymour wanted to create a world and a show that was natural to her for the Spring/Summer 2024 collection, the fashion designer told CNN.
Using AI as a tool to “remix old Collina and drive it further,” getting AI to make the designs was the easy part. Taking the AI-generated sketches and constructing real-life outfits for production was a concerted effort Taymour’s design team managed to pull off over the course of several weeks despite the algorithm’s initial whimsical and phantasmic design ideas.
Although Collina Strada appears to be the first fashion brand to use generative AI to create physical Fashion Week looks, Robbie Barrat is an artist who foreshadowed AI-generated fashion a few years back, and may have pioneered the commercialization of AI fashion.
Having designed a Kanye West AI model that writes rap songs based on the rapper’s entire discography, Robbie’s passion for AI and neural networks led to a prestigious Nvidia internship and a research stint straight out of high school at Stanford University’s Center for Biomedical Informatics Research, where he also guest lectures Continuing Studies classes on artificial intelligence. The self-taught genius then lended his prodigal skillset to create Balenciaga AI, a futuristic Balenciaga fashion collection and runway lookbook in 2018.
“A question I get a lot about this is whether or not the AI is ‘creatively’ making these outfits, or if it’s just mimicking Balenciaga. I don’t think that the AI is being ‘creative’ when it comes up with this stuff, but I don’t think that it’s just mimicking Balenciaga either,” Barrat said.
Trained on thousands of images from Balenciaga lookbooks and fashion shows, Barrat’s Balenciaga AI model was able to come up with its own interpretation of what a Balenciaga outfit should look like.
“When humans are designing clothing, we know all about the nonvisual context our clothes have (like what bags are used for and why people carry them, why people wear coats, etc.). The network really doesn’t understand or care about this stuff, so instead of a bag it might instead just generate a piece of cloth for the person to hold—or just generate a pair of pants with a big compartment built in because it doesn’t understand that bags are separate from pants, since in all the images it sees they’re always right next to each other. It also doesn’t understand symmetry at all, but I really love the asymmetrical outfits. It’s just, like, a totally alien perspective,” Barrat further explained.
The first ever AI Fashion Week earlier this year showed the progress of AI fashion, where innovative designers came together to showcase their diverse range of designs and silhouettes made up of 15-30 different looks while incorporating the latest fashion trends into their AI collections.
Collina Strada’s Spring/Summer 2024 collection further cements the use of AI as a potential innovative disrupter in the fashion industry’s value chain. Apart from turning sketches into photorealistic designs for production in order to accelerate productivity, enhanced go-to-market capabilities can also foster cost-effective opportunities within the fashion industry in the long run.
Further reading: The AI Financial Crisis Theory Demystified: How To Create Resilient Global Ecosystems