As a customer, would you prefer fashion created by an AI or by a human? A month ago, I would have not given computers much thought. But now I’ve played with the latest generation of AI design tools, I’m not so sure anymore.
I feel we need to radically review the design and product development cycles in creative industries like fashion, graphic design, furniture, and more…
In this issue of Level Up, I summarise the experiment that changed my mind and make the case that if you want to stay in tune with your customers, you should do some tech immersion of your own.
It all started out as a joke.
As a designer, my son practices slow fashion. He wants to bring back craftsmanship into a world that has become all too automated. It’s a niche business, but I agree he’s onto something. Still, I couldn’t resist teasing him with some ‘clothing designs’ I made with AI tools I found online.
We had a laugh and agreed I shouldn’t switch day jobs yet.
Until both me and the AI got better.
As I came to grips with the design prompts, and the AI overlords introduced new features, my initial computer-generated sketches morphed into ever more sophisticated styles. Until, at one point, my artisan-minded son exclaimed: “I hate I love these”.
Which was where I wondered…
How far could I push this AI fashion thing? Would it be possible to create a designer fashion brand or collection using only AI? So I tried.
In a day, I got a lot further than I thought I would.
I came up with a brand name and then used AI to generate a logo and a video in which zAzzI, my fictitious AI designer, introduced themselves. I even got some copy prompts from AI writing software. Then, I uploaded it all to Instagram and a new brand was born.
Note: I deleted the account the same day as it was only a test. There’s enough digital clutter in the world.
I’m still not quitting my day job. Though, with a bit of funding, I could.
As a former fashion exec, it wouldn’t take me much to turn zAzzI into a commercial proposition. Sure, the branding needs a human upgrade. But the AI’s designs are ‘good enough’ to pitch and produce to order.
Also, by playing on my iPad in the evenings, I could drop a reasonable to high quality new design every single day. Add a little of customer experience magic, some storytelling, and a new Belgian avant-garde design house is born.
Just have a look at the designs:
For me, this is a paradigm shift.
Unlike my son, I’ve never been to a fashion school. Still, with artificial intelligence, I created an MVP in a day. And when a thousand untrained monkeys like me play this game, some of them will eventually produce the evening wear version of Hamlet. Especially when powered by VR design tools, data analytics, mass-customisation tech and venture capital.
The impact of this is hard to summarise
But already in this short immersion, I can see how it will challenge traditional models. Change customer expectations. Affect the way designer-led industries work. Because, while I focused on fashion, the same applies to furniture, lighting, etc. I even tried cars. Different industries. Same story.
Which gets me to my bigger point.
No one can understand paradigm shifts by only reading about them.
They need to be experienced. Percolate in the mind. Internalised.
I’ve been reading about artificial intelligence and AI imaging for years. Even studied the math. But I would never have seen its potential if I hadn’t immersed myself in its application. If I hadn’t taken the time to learn the language of text-to-image AI. Played designer. If only for a day.
So my strong suggestion is that you do the same.
In your industry, the relevant tech may be different. It could be VR. CRISPR genome editing. Brain-computer interfaces.
But get yourself a starter kit and start playing. Push buttons. Enter commands. Build. Tinker. Break things. See for yourself how the new possibilities can affect customer expectations and the way your industry will work.
The more strategic your role, the more important this becomes.
You don’t need to become an expert. That’s why you have colleagues who speak jargon and wear white coats. But you should experience enough of the new technologies to feel their impact. To envision in your gut what they could mean for your customers, your industry and your business.
Even if, like for my son, that vision is to commit to the old ways.
Think about it.
Do you wonder about your industry's fashion AI moment ?
Then let’s have a virtual coffee. We can have a general chat or free-flow brainstorm about the way new tech will shape your customer's expectations. And how to get ready before it happens.
Even if the conversation has no follow-up, it should be fun 😉.
Alain Thys is an experience architect who helps organisations drive profit and transformation through experience.