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Artificial intelligence in fashion design – real creativity or creative catalyst?

A dystopian vision that sounds more like science fiction than reality is that artificial intelligence systems will surpass the intellect of mankind in all its manifestations in the future – thereby making the human unnecessary. In fact, artificial intelligence is already superior to human beings in certain areas: AI systems are successfully used in case law, translation services are becoming more and more accurate through artificial intelligence and algorithms have even been used to find suitable therapies for cancer patients. So, the question arises: what distinguishes human intelligence from artificial intelligence and where does man remain superior to the machine?

Creativity is a human ability that is especially used in the fashion industry. Fashion designers create new collections season after season. Can artificial intelligence, like human beings, create new, creative fashion from scratch? First examples of the use of artificial intelligence in fashion design already exist:

Myntra: The design of the Indian retailer Myntra’s private label “Moda Rapido” runs completely without human intervention: computer-generated T-shirts, jeans, kurtas and shoes are offered on the retailer’s website. The AI system is fed with data from a variety of sources, including customer data, social media data and fashion publications. Based on this data, countless design combinations are generated and then evaluated to determine which will be the bestselling products. TechPacks are automatically created for the selected styles, which contain all necessary specifications for production. Compared to the other 14 brands in the Myntra portfolio, Moda Rapido has the highest gross margins.

Stitch Fix: The “Hybrid Designer” of the fashion start-up “Stitch Fix” catalogues its entire inventory and divides each garment into 30 to 80 features, such as color, length, number of buttons, hem shape, fabric, pattern, sleeve or collar type. An algorithm then evaluates which of these characteristics are most popular with consumers and checks whether a particular article from the inventory has several of the most popular characteristics. If this is not the case, a market gap has been found: According to the principle “the more the better”, Stitch Fix assumes that the more of these popular features an article has, the better it will sell. The identified gaps in the market are then presented to human designers instead of a mood board to start the creative process.

But are these tools, which depend exclusively on historical data, comparable to human creativity? People find solutions that are unpredictable; their creativity feeds on inspiration, gut feeling, emotions, experiences and socialization. Fashion in particular is a melting pot of the most diverse sources of inspiration from art, culture and social currents. The tools described above, on the other hand, are working tools with limited utility. In other words: just because a hammer is better suited to knock a nail into a board than a human thumb, it is far from superior to humans in general.

Artificial intelligence can currently help automate certain areas of the fashion designer’s work and thus increase the efficiency of the design process, which in turn reduces costs. AI is therefore not creative itself now, but rather serves to trigger people’s creativity and optimize the creative process. Designers are encouraged to find customer-oriented solutions that meet the real needs of the target group.

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