Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) the Next Revolution in Fashion?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that focuses on the development of smart machines that can emulate a human being’s unique reasoning abilities. In other words, these machines are programmed to work and react like humans. Despite how innovative and far-fetched it may sound, AI technologies are already quite embedded in today's society. Experts, in fact, consider it the new frontier of computing!

Have you ever noticed how your smartphones and devices seem to know you a little too much? How many times have you been scrolling down your social media page and seen a pop-up suggestion of something that actually matched your preferences?

This is down to AI, or, to be more exact, to an earlier version of AI compared to today’s standards. This technology uses algorithms to analyse customers’ online past behaviour, discover what they like and make predictions on what they might be interested in next.

High-tech companies like Google, Apple (Siri) and Amazon (Alexa) have been pioneers of AI software; more recently, even companies like Spotify and Netflix have adopted these advanced systems to create ultimate personalised lists based on individuals’ usage patterns.

Nowadays, AI’s ability to crawl and analyse e-commerce markets has become particularly suitable for the fashion industry, which is continuously increasing its online presence.

In fashion, AI technology is expected to revolutionise the entire retail scene. By studying users’ online activities, this high-tech tool has the capability to help brands align supply and demand, tailor personal services and help designers create better products.

Aligning Supply & Demand

Artificial Intelligence can tell retailers how to match product supply to the customers’ demand. Through machine learning, it is able to track consumers’ behaviour, high and low performing goods, and popular colours and silhouettes to predict what products and categories will sell. In such a way, AI is not only enabling businesses to operate more efficiently, but it is also turning the industry more sustainable by decreasing the production of inoperative products and reducing waste altogether.

The luxury lingerie brand Cosabella has been experimenting with AI for over a year. Last summer, the company teamed up with an AI start-up company ‘Emarsys’ and handed over their e-commerce data to them. The brand has since gotten better at understanding what their customers want. Cosabella has, in fact, introduced a capsule collection based on the start-up’s analysis of shoppers’ online behaviour, which is designed and sold at a faster rate than their usual ranges.

Tailoring Personal Services

Retailers can now build a more ‘personal’ online shopping experience through the creation of a one-to-one service via chatbots. Chatbots are an AI tool able to simulate conversations with Internet users.

By interacting with customers online, brands can provide them with a more guided experience, just as a sales-assistant would be able to do in a physical store.

In 2015, The North Face, in collaboration with IMB Watson, launched a new platform on their website to improve their online performance. As the shoppers enter the site, they are assisted by an automated chatbot service that guides them throughout their purchases and helps them find what they need.

Tommy Hilfiger has also used AI bots to boost the sales of the A/W 16 TommyxGigi collection. For the duration of a weekend during New York Fashion Week, the brand launched a Facebook Messenger bot called ‘TMY.GRL’. This bot is considered the biggest fashion step for the tool so far; the service enabled personalised and scalable conversations, and it provided content from the runway show to uplift customer engagement.

AI Assisted Design

Artificial Intelligence can also help designers create products that are better fitted to the consumers’ needs. For example, in 2016, Google has launched an experimental project called ‘Project Muze’, in collaboration with the German e-commerce fashion platform Zalando. Project Muze is a design engine trained with the style preferences of more than 600 fashion 'trendsetters', data from the Google Fashion Trend Reports and the trending styles on Zalando.

These technological advances will bring a series of new changes to the way that the creative industry operates. However, rather than fearing these developments, designers should consider how they can be empowered by the use of AI engines. For instance, in the architecture industry, artists like Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry have become worldwide known for their ability to use computer-modelling software in their works. As these assisted design engines more become available to the fashion industry, designers will be able to create more accurate and innovative collections.