- Kristen Fabien
How Can AI Influence Fashion and Beauty?
In retail, AI (artificial Intelligence) has come to be known as a competitive necessity. Companies like RetailFlux allow the analysis of store videos to give retailers the data they need to adapt their store models and inventories to better serve their customers. Similarly, AI and big data are being used in marketing to help brands develop more meaningful relationships with their customers. Digital agency Ayima, for example, uses machine learning to help brands reach their target audiences and increase conversion rates, particularly by improving their clients' SEO. The fashion and beauty industries have also seen great impact, as AI is being used to revolutionize the way the industry operates altogether.
With fashion trends taking inspiration from a wide range of subject matters, it can become difficult for some brands to come up with original designs that will not only stand out but will also make waves upon its release. This is where AI comes in. With its ability to detect existing trends and predict up-and-coming ones, forecasting errors can be dramatically reduced. Through AI, designers can better keep up with the ever-evolving fashion industry and gain valuable insight about the styles that do and do not sell well in the market. Brands, big and small, will also be able to have access to a large pool of knowledge that makes sense of the purchase patterns of consumers and of the emerging technologies and strategies that could further improve sales, branding and other marketing activities. Some of the brands that are making full use of AI's extensive capabilities are retail giants Amazon and Walmart, which (believe it or not), have clothing brands of their own, and are using machine learning systems that can determine the fashion trends buyers are likely to look for.
According to The Wall Street Journal’s write up on the high price of fashion, over 100 billion items of clothing are produced each year. Needless to say, the creation of such a huge amount of garments uses up tonnes upon tonnes of energy, which is not only costly but is also incredibly detrimental for the environment. With AI, energy-intensive manufacturing processes can be made more efficient, and mundane tasks can be performed with more accuracy and precision. Fabric quality control, colour matching, defect detection, pattern inspection... All can be automated, with the training right data-set. Through automated logistics and processes, brands will also have the needed technologies to forward a more sustainable supply chain that supports a circular economy.
Retail and styling
Although current circumstances may have prematurely taken the dressing room experience away from us, it has led to the speedy rise of highly advanced alternatives that allow us to see how a specific outfit would look without having to actually wear it. A few years back, Van Heusen Style Studio opened its first digital store in India, which showcased an AI fashion stylist ready to help shoppers see how outfits would look on them. All the shoppers had to do was to scan the garment's barcode and stand in front of the AI-supported mirror. In his article on the Medium, Vikram Singh Bisen details how AI-enabled applications are not only tailored for different occasions and weather, but also to the user’s style, body type, skin color, as well as on the latest fashion trends. AI-powered smart mirrors can also simplify shopping experience and reduce friction points, a great concern for many these days given the ongoing crisis.
This will not come as a shock to many : it can be very hard to find the right cosmetic products that answer the unique needs of one's skin, whether that be because of colour, allergies, sensitivities, personal preferences... Fortunately, consumers can now count on AI-backed brands that offer personalized products. A great example of such a brand is L'Oreal subsidiary Lancome. Lancome’s custom-made foundation machine known as Le Teint Particulier promises to find and create the “exact match” for the client’s skin with the help of AI. However, it is important to note that the high price of personalized cosmetics makes it nearly impossible for such products to seep into the mainstream and become fully inclusive (as per its mission statement).
There are over 182 cosmetic brands in the US, which are controlled by seven major companies. Unsurprisingly, this leads to a beauty market that is not only highly competitive but also incredibly crowded. Given this reality, it can then be easy for many consumers to get sucked into buying products that do not necessarily work for them. AI can change things up by enabling personalized searches and helping buyers look through a collection of products that answer to their specific needs. For instance, online services like My Beauty Matches utilize AI, using short questionnaires filled before customers begin shopping as input. The AI-powered website will then use its algorithm to show a library of brands based on the answers provided by the consumer.
Back in the days, people would have to go to large department stores, boutiques and clinics to get their skin checked or to see if a product suits them well. These days, however, with AI-powered apps, all you have to do is to take a selfie and/or answer a brief questionnaire and get a diagnosis for your skin. Sure, the services offered by these apps are still a long way from even coming close to the accuracy provided by dermatologists. However, at the very least, consumers are able to see a brief assessment of their skin condition and become much more aware of the state of their skin.
An example of such an app is Olay’s Skin Advisor, which relies on machine learning and makes predictions about aging and skin care needs with the help of AI.
We are now living in a world that's run by all sorts of technologies. And while these technologies may come with some (many) disadvantages, it cannot be denied that the benefits they provide have made multiple industries, such as fashion and beauty, better in more ways than one. AI is capable of revolutionizing design, retail, manufacturing and styling for the fashion industry, while it can improve skin diagnostics, shopping experience and personalisation for the beauty and cosmetics sector. Let's hope these positive changes outweigh the potential negatives.