Will Artificial Intelligence Models Take Over The Fashion Industry?
These are artificially created models.
Some of them are already replacing real-life models in the fashion world, and others have built up massive followings on social media – despite not actually being real people.
This AI tech is being praised for its sustainability and cost-efficiency, but it also has huge ethical implications. So, what would happen if real-life models were completely replaced by artificially created ones?
One AI modelling agency that is attracting attention is hum.ai.n.
They currently have three different looking AI models, who‘ve been created to challenge both physical and social norms in the fashion world.
This new technology isn’t like the CGI you see in action movies when actors are brought back to life. That’s imagery created through digital special effects.
These artificially generated bodies are mathematically created – kind of like if you told a computer what a face is and asked it to create its own, without looking at another human for reference.
This isn’t the first-time human models have been replaced by digital ones.
And then there’s virtual influencer Lil’ Miquela – a CGI model with a huge social media presence. The 19-year-old is politically active and has appeared in brand partnerships with Samsung and Calvin Klein (where she made out with Bella Hadid).
It seems really strange, but young people are genuinely investing in her as if she was a real person – which probably comes down to creators trying to make her as relatable as possible.
But What’s So Appealing About AI Models?
Some people think the hype around AI in fashion has got to do with it still very much being a novelty.
But marketing experts are saying the benefits of using these agencies could be huge – saving not only money and time, but also reducing waste.
Insider wrote that, “it eliminates most human errors, allows you to be more direct with expectations and have more control over the campaign.”
And Journalist Joe Rivers argues that, “a fictional Instagrammer isn’t going to tarnish your brand’s reputation with their behaviour, or land a wholly unsuitable boyfriend”.
In other words, real people could be less reliable than digital ones.
So, is the use of AI models going to become the future of the fashion industry?
Associate Professor Alice Payne from the Queensland University of Technology isn’t so sure.
Alice Payne: “I think initially it will become a novelty and it will … look very beautiful and everything will be all flat and perfect and so on … [Then] I think people will start to crave authenticity.”
Payne pointed out that there are concerns about the possible impacts artificial models could have on young people – with real life comparisons being made to computer generated people who might have even more unobtainable beauty standards than the celebrities and influencers we’re used to seeing.
AP: “Absolutely there’s issues around who’s controlling this technology and what agenda are they pushing forward, and what kind of representation do they want?”
The Guardian Journalist Arwa Mahdawi described the rise of AI modelling agencies as, “late capitalist hell” and “a rather terrifying glimpse into the future”, and Professor Payne agrees that their use does throw up a lot of ethical questions.
AP: “What’s being replaced by these digital avatars? What people don’t have a job or, what people don’t have the opportunity to connect in an authentic way with an audience.”
While agencies like Hum.ai.n are pushing boundaries by having a transgender model or a model with vitiligo – their models still don’t have real stories, making the goals of inclusivity and relatability kind of complicated.
While the fashion industry is constantly looking for new ways to be more sustainable, it’s important to recognise the cost that sustainability can come at.
In the case of AI models, there are some serious questions that need to be addressed. Specifically, in terms of visibility, authenticity and responsibility, if the technology is ever going to be used in a mainstream way.