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Though still in its infancy — the robots are not taking over yet — AI is revolutionizing nearly all industries, including fashion. AI in fashion is already applicable to mass-production fashion, while entrepreneurs in the tech-fashion world scramble to refine other applications for consumer use.
Not only is it essential to understand the role AI will play in the fashion industry, it’s paramount to understand the ethical maze that we must walk to ensure that the technology promotes sustainable fashion. With the wrong algorithms, the wrong code, the wrong feedback loops, the future of fashion AI could be devastating to our planet.
Thankfully, the maze is not that difficult to navigate if you have the will to do so.
For the most part, AI in fashion is being used to rapidly identify either general trends or personal tastes of users based on enormous amounts of public data scrubbed from social media sites, such as Pinterest and Instagram.
According to the Advertising Specialty Institute, a quick search of “#fashion” on Instagram reveals more than half a billion results. Sorting through that amount of big data to obtain meaningful insights and trends is only possible through AI. The project StreetStyle by Kavita Bala, chair of the computer science department at Cornell University, does exactly that.
The AI created for the project is able to develop a map of style trends and influencers by analyzing 14.5 million photos publicly shared on social media. The program is capable of answering questions, such as: How many people wear black in Los Angeles today, compared with two years ago? Or, where in the world is the hijab most prevalent?
One AI fashion company that has gained traction is Stitch Fix, which creates personalized suggestions of articles and accessories based on a user’s selected preferences and social-media activity.
Think about how much easier life would be if you could ditch your friends with sometimes-questionable fashion tastes and just ask your AI: Alexa, how do I look today? Then, Alexa could tell you that though the cut of your jeans is coming back in style based on your age and socio-economic standing, they certainly should not be worn with that print shirt.
Though what is being rolled out is clearly unfashionable, there is work being rolled out.
At the research center Lab126, an Amazon team has already developed an algorithm using a generative adversarial network, or GAN — which exists on the frontline of computer learning.
Will Knight explained in MIT Technology Review that the algorithm developed by the team “learns about a particular style of fashion from images, and can then generate new items in similar styles from scratch—essentially, a simple AI fashion designer.” However, he admits that the system is still fairly crude — hardly a word any designer wants to hear about their work.
The tsunami is coming — that is clear. However, what form it takes when it makes land depends on a lot more than just efficient coding and rapid processing of big data. There are ethical questions with regards to all AI endeavors. And, because the fashion industry is plagued by ethical dilemmas, any AI being used will face those same questions.
It really comes down to the choice made by a handful of people developing AI fashion programs for the industry. The future of fashion is in their fingertips; their views and moral values, as well as attention to ethical and sustainability questions, will revolutionize the fashion industry one or the other.
Designers and consumers must come together to ask AI fashion programers these ethical questions. Doing so is essential to the future of fashion and our planet.
I’d love to hear your thoughts regarding AI in sustainable fashion in the comment box below.
The most important is whether or not AI in the fashion industry will be designed to promote sustainable fashion. Without coding in ways to measure the new generation of consumers’ demand for sustainable fashion, AI could easily produce “hard data” that leads the industry astray.
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Another big question that will impact our world is whether or not programmers of fashion AI algorithms are willing to provide a solution to the overconsumption that plagues the industry. At this point, it seems that such programs are more geared toward increasing overconsumption, pushing boxes of low quality, unstainable clothing and accessories on people who do not need them. Without addressing this issue, AI could simply escalate the issue of overconsumption in the industry.
The last question boils down the question of art. Is AI capable of creating art? An algorithm has been used to write a novel now, but can it define style? Style does not bloom from trends, trends are in fact the flowers of style.
It is far too easy to get caught up in the rhetoric and marketing capabilities of the AI being used by the fashion industry. Though AI is neither good nor bad, it is capable of both depending on what questions we ask while it’s being developed.
Consumers, designers, and programmers must ask these questions as we move into the future of fashion.
The days of 3D printing being a hyped-up novelty are gone. The technology has moved past the innovation stage and is well into the early adoption phase as more and more people seek out information and dip their toes into the industry. But while 3D printing as a whole is rapidly becoming more mainstream, when it comes to printing clothing, there are still major challenges.
I experience some of those challenges every day in my 3D-printed fashion lab in Miami, and I’m using one of the most advanced 3D printers available on the market. For someone working on clothing at home with a consumer-grade 3D printer, the challenges would be even greater. But luckily, I do see solutions on the horizon, and as the technology matures, most of the problems fashion designers currently face will begin to ease.
Here are the top three problems I currently see facing 3D printed sustainable fashion, and the solutions that I believe will arrive sooner rather than later to help ease the frustration of 3D designers like myself.
Problem 1: Materials are Currently Quite Limiting
While there are a number of types of
The other big problem is
Luckily, there are innovative companies out there tackling both of these problems as we speak. A company called
Problem 2: 3D Printing is Slow
There have been great strides in the efficiency and speed of 3D printing over the past few years, but I’d be lying if I said that the technology was currently fast. The time it takes to complete a design is obviously based on overall complexity, but even the simplest of fashion pieces requires some serious patience.
For example, in my September show at New York Fashion Week, the pieces incorporated a lot of complex geometrical shapes. As a result, it actually took around 150 hours to print one of the dresses on a single printer! That’s obviously an extreme example, but even with the current skirt I’m working on, which is a much simpler design, printing takes around 18 hours.
The solution to this problem is obvious – the unstoppable march of technological progress! Every year printers get faster and faster and, especially as large format printers grow in speed, the time it takes to do large, complex designs will rapidly decrease. For multi-piece designs like the skirt I mentioned (which requires a 3D printed liner as well), employing multiple printers is also an easy way to cut the manufacturing time down.
I’ve also begun experimenting with stereolithography (SLA) printers, which are faster than traditional printers. SLA printers also allow me to print with different materials like silicone and flexible resins. The downside is that, while fast, SLA printers are small. They are getting larger though, and I’m eagerly awaiting the launch of a large-format version in the coming months.
Problem 3: There’s a Long Way to Go in Education and Acceptance
While 3D printing is now in an early adoption phase and more and more consumers are becoming familiar with it, when it comes to 3D printed fashion, there is a long, long way to go. In fact, when you tell the average person about 3D printed clothing, most of them initially don’t even believe it’s real. They also assume that 3D printed clothing is worse for the environment and for the consumer than traditional materials like cotton. That’s understandable, since most people associate “plastic” with “bad”, but when it comes clothing production, they couldn’t be more wrong.
The industry also needs more education on the technology itself, specifically the software used to create designs. As it stands, it can be a steep learning curve to tackle, and many fashion designers that might otherwise be interested in trying out 3D printing will never get started due to the barrier to entry posed by the relatively complex software.
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Photo: Vita Zamchevska
In 2018, I launched the world’s first-ever fully 3D printed women’s fashion line created on large-format 3D printers and presented it during the last New York Fashion Week. Throughout that week and in the time since, one question I’ve been asked more times than I can count is simply, “why?”
Most people are amazed by the quality of clothing that can be accomplished with my method of 3D printing in fashion, but the reasoning behind moving towards 3D printed clothing goes so far beyond just the aesthetics or function of the pieces. The thing that makes this new paradigm so important, and the thing that drew me to it in the first place, is the enormous potential 3D printing holds for advancement in an ethical and sustainable fashion.
Since I first started experimenting with 3D printing, my vision has always been a world in which fashion production is safer and cleaner, with the serious human and environmental costs that the industry currently inflicts greatly reduced or eliminated. There are a number of ways that 3D printed clothing helps to move that dream towards reality, and raising awareness on those positive impacts is one of the main reasons I design.
The materials that traditional garment production utilizes cause a lot of problems, and they’re only going to get worse over time. We know that cotton production is highly dependant on chemicals and fertilizers causing massive environmental damage, and the chromium used in leather tanning is extremely harmful to the people that work with it and the environment it leaches into. But beyond that, we’re also running into a shortage of space.
Textile production is incredibly resource-intensive, and as time marches on, we’re going to get to the point where it just isn’t possible to keep doing it the way we currently do. Cotton production, for instance, requires huge amounts of water. Cotton is grown in India – an already water-starved country – uses 22,500 litres of water per kilogram grown. It also requires large swaths of land to be dedicated to the crop. Neither land nor fresh water is in ample supply and, thanks to climate change and human expansion, every year they only get scarcer.
3D printing provides a solution to this resource scarcity problem. Clothes produced with 3D printers utilize materials that don’t require the waste of millions of liters of precious fresh water or land that could be used to grow food, and the printers themselves, even large-scale ones, require very little space in comparison to traditional clothing factories. It’s an elegant technical solution to a pressing problem, and it means that as the world’s population grows and the land we have available to us shrinks, we can continue producing all of the clothing we need while directing our most important resources to where they should go – improving the lives of human beings.
There is a lot of talk in the fashion industry about ethical and sustainable production, but unfortunately, there’s very little action to go along with it. Because ‘sustainability’ is such a buzzword, people get the incorrect impression that we’ve made big strides in fixing the numerous environmental and human problems that come along with traditional garment production – but we haven’t. In reality, we’ve only taken the tiniest of baby steps.
Baby steps aren’t enough, and 3D printing allows us to take some enormous steps towards solving problems like unethical
The 3D printing process is also extremely efficient in and of itself. Whereas traditional manufacturing produces an enormous amount of waste material, 3D printing uses only as much filament as is required to complete a design, so there is effectively no wasted material discarded during production.
The reaction to my full line at Fashion Week was incredibly positive but as nice as it was to receive compliments on the visual or functional aspects of the designs, what I was most pleased with was the immensely positive response towards the potential impacts of the technology. I love fashion, and making beautiful clothing is incredibly important to me, but my passion is making a positive change in the industry I love. A huge number of women feel the same way I do, and while few will ever design their own clothing, a consumer wearing a 3D printed garment can do so knowing they’re making a positive contribution towards sustainability in fashion in a very real way.
Photo: Vita Zamchevska, Olya Helga, Julia Daviy
Text: Julia Daviy
Hello and thank you for your interest
Today, I believe that 3D printing is the most sustainable way to revolutionize the development of
The more I studied, the more understanding of how the combination of the methods of Design Thinking and 3D Printing (and 3D design) may give much better solutions to people, startups and every organization.
And, I became obsessed with an idea to turn us, the society of consumers to the society of creators. That is how all this started.
My biggest challenge is to create clothes differently to find the better way to transform fashion from the industry that exploits the planet, people and animals into the industry that helps to unleash the creativity of everyone and empower people to behave responsibly towards the Earth and earthlings.