In late December 2022, months after the official collaboration had debuted, images of a visually-delicious Jacquemus x Nike ski collection surfaced. The smoothly cushioned textures, calming shades, and cartoonish silhouettes immediately hooked netizens in China and the rest of the world. The catch? They weren’t physically real.
Created by footwear designer Marco Simonetti and his co-founded collective RAL7000STUDIO, all of the clothing and accessories are digital-only — created by artificial intelligence (AI). But that didn’t stop social media from blowing up. TikToker @ebonybrownstyle sums up the hype, stating that Simonetti “has the fashion world in a chokehold.”
The fact that RAL7000STUDIO’s AI pieces saw higher interest than the actual Jacquemus x Nike collection itself foreshadows just how much potential the technology has. According to Simonetti, AI concepts can be simply explained as “the ability of a computer to display human-like capabilities stimulating and enhancing human creativity, with the goal of finding innovative ideas and thought processes.”
Fed the ideas of actual designers and artists, computer AI programs can use these as fuel to produce infinite mock-ups. “With AI, each creator has the possibility to evolve any initial idea or sketch into multiple design options, by creating unlimited iterations of the same concept,” Simonetti adds. It’s a creative process fast-track. He believes that, if adopted by brands and luxury houses, designers could use their time more efficiently.
As Simonetti notes, all the major sportswear brands are already working with forms of the technology, and luxury houses have deployed it in their moodboarding. The global market for AI fashion was reportedly at $270 million (1.8 billion RMB) in 2018 and is projected to grow to $4.4 billion (29.8 billion RMB) by 2027; proof that companies are recognizing the extensive potential.
Making moves in the space is also Code-Create, a spinoff of the Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence in Design, which introduced the world's first fashion design AI platform AiDA in December 2022. The company’s co-founder Kim Wong tells Jing Daily that there are benefits beyond reducing workload.
“The objective is to bounce ideas back and forth to make you think better and also to speed up the process so that designers can be more sensitive to the market's needs,” says Wong, who likens AI design to using a sewing machine. It needs human input for results.
In that case, the myth of AI stealing real design jobs can be partially debunked. Designers should feel that they are working together with computers, rather than being pitted against them. Though naturally, as knowledge of these design concepts feels alien to most creatives in 2023, there is still a sense of fear.
Patrick McDowell, the London-based founder of his eponymous fashion brand, questions if we should trust AI “just as we would trust a design team to create pieces for us? The worry is, will they take over completely? Will it render us useless? It’s scary. But perhaps it is the future.” He emphasizes the importance of human emotion in fashion design, which cannot be replicated in the same way. “Fashion is so much more than just a great product. We buy into the story and into the brand.”
He notes how the implications of the tech extend well beyond notions of creativity and the individual. “As someone who’s rooted in sustainability, this is also a question I have. Can we use AI to solve these issues? Can AI ensure we treat people and the planet properly?” In fact — and though it might first appear to raise the question of overproduction (in terms of the sheer quantity of what it can produce) — there’s a significant waste-saving benefit.
The quick-reaction nature of AI means that it can meet regional needs. And so production no longer needs to be done six months ahead, meaning a reduction in over-scaling. This is a crucial benefit: in terms of pollution the fashion industry is second, after the oil and gas sector.
While sustainability can make the moral case for AI design, it’s the actual visuals which are winning consumers over. From RAL7000STUDIO’s Jacquemus x Nike collection to the concoctions coming out of @AIClothingDaily, there’s a heightened intricacy in these sci-fi-esque concepts. It’s brought a whole new dimension to design. With the recent explosion of NFTs it must be noted that Web3 creativity and art often relies on AI design and algorithms. As this sector inches into the fashion world, the implications for the future could be vast.
As Simonetti observes, “AI could give a luxury brand the opportunity of engaging a wider community of potential consumers by creating new fields of action, halfway between dream and reality.”