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How AI is transforming the fashion industry

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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It may be that humans are responsible for design, but it is machines that are forecasting trends and informing product decisions.

The fact that AI is becoming an integral part of technology in the apparel industry is substantiated by the growth of its annual spending, which is predicted to nearly quadruple from 2 billion dollars in 2018 to 7.3 billion dollars by 2022, according to Juniper Research.

Forecasting is but one example of using artificial intelligence in the fashion industry. New technologies are helping retailers to manage inventory using AI-powered tools to gauge demand. Chatbots are the new fashion advisors, offering a 24/7 connection to customers to help them make purchasing decisions. Savvy AI algorithms help tailor product recommendations and allow retailers to create collections customer want to buy.

Edited, a retail technology company based in London that produces real-time data analytics software gives retailers access to full market data at the touch of a button. Its platform helps retailers’ and brands trade faster as it lets them look at the entire global market; right down to colours, shapes and patterns, and is used by companies as wide ranging as Boohoo, Farfetch, Tommy Hilfiger and Marni.

Geoff Watts, Edited CEO, stated: "AI is helping retailers in a number of ways, but when you cut to the core of how retailers decide what to stock and how to price it (which is the most fundamental part of retail), that’s where the real AI benefits layer in".

AI is omni present

Data, as marketers are keen to tell us, is everything. But as AI is quietly transforming the fashion industry, the end consumer doesn't necessarily fathom how online behaviour is being monitored, recorded and analysed. For example, H&M uses AI to keep popular items well-stocked by analysing receipts and returns to gauge which stores need what. In marketing mode, many brands are analysing social media data to monitor fashion conversations, allowing social data to inform the latest trends, which markets to prioritise and which segment is most interesting for the brand. One such company, MakerSights, uses data analytics that combines factors such as search queries, social media activity, e-commerce sell-throughs and consumer feedback to provide clues into what is most likely to become a trend.

But data has its limits. “Data is exceptionally useful to detect when a rising trend is about to hit mass adoption and to anticipate the decline of a trend,” Andrea Bell, head of insight at trend forecasting agency WGSN, told Vogue Business. "What it can’t do is invent a trend."

Is there anything a machine cannot master in the near future?

Good design comes from inspiration, for which the human touch is still irreplaceable.

Photo courtesy of Edited