AI in Fashion: Can it carry on a designer’s legacy?

AI in Fashion: Can it carry on a designer’s legacy?
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NORMA Kamali, the celebrated New York fashion designer with over five decades of experience, is pioneering a novel approach to ensure her creative legacy lives on. At 78, she isn’t ready to retire, but she’s contemplating the future of her eponymous fashion label. Instead of the traditional succession planning route, Kamali is delving into the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) to create an AI version of herself.

Preserving a designer’s essence

Kamali’s vision involves developing an AI system that can replicate her design style, effectively “downloading her brain” into the machine. The primary goal is not to replace human designers but to allow her company to continue drawing on her creativity long after she steps back. The AI is being trained to generate new designs based on her creative DNA from text prompts. Maison Meta, an AI-focused agency, is collaborating with Kamali on this ambitious project.

AI’s role in the fashion industry

The fashion industry is increasingly embracing AI technology for various purposes, from generating product descriptions to powering chatbots. Designers like Kamali are exploring AI’s potential to push creative boundaries and, in her case, ensure the legacy of her brand. While Kamali may be among the first to take this extensive AI-driven approach, questions remain about AI’s ability to lead a brand into the future.

The limitations of AI

AI, while capable of processing data, has its limitations when it comes to creativity. Can AI truly dream and envision the future of a brand? This question looms large as the fashion industry experiments with AI-driven design. The culture and unique qualities that a founder brings to a company are challenging to replicate through AI. Moreover, designers evolve over time, and an excessive focus on past creations can lead to stagnation.

The process of AI training

Creating an AI version of a designer involves a meticulous process. Maison Meta worked closely with Kamali’s archive team to prepare the necessary imagery for AI training. Thousands of images from Kamali’s brand archive were used to teach the AI the essence of her style. These images were categorized by product type, starting with swimwear. The AI was also trained to understand keywords related to design details. The process of training the AI is time-consuming and resource-intensive, involving large machines and extensive testing.

AI’s potential beyond fashion design

Kamali’s endeavor opens up possibilities beyond fashion design. Maison Meta has explored the concept of “future vintage,” where AI could be used to create new designs inspired by legendary designers like Vivienne Westwood. This approach could be valuable for investors looking to revive dormant brands without hiring a designer to design new collections from scratch.

The role of human creativity

Norma Kamali believes that AI, while promising, cannot fully replace human creativity. A design must have a soul, a connection to the pattern, and a unique essence that AI struggles to replicate. Kamali acknowledges that AI can provide new opportunities but emphasizes that human originality remains irreplaceable.

Norma Kamali’s journey into AI-driven fashion design is still a work in progress. She sees it as a learning process, akin to a “baby learning to walk” while being a “genius” at the same time. Kamali is determined to figure out how to integrate AI into the future of her company. As AI continues to evolve, it may play a significant role in the fashion industry, offering new avenues for creativity and innovation while preserving the legacy of iconic designers.


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