It’s time for the fashion industry to embrace AI

Your shopping habits, preferences and social media activity are just some of the things AI can and will use to create personalised shopping experiences for individuals

With a deadline looming and a blank screen and dark cursor beckoning, I could not think of a single thing to write about. Then I got a touch of inspiration. Why not feed Open AI’s ChatGPT questions and see what it comes up with.

I would just like to give you a heads-up. It failed abysmally at being interesting. I ended up doing the heavy lifting. Chat does not offer insights. It regurgitates other people’s facts and thoughts. Still, I had a one-sided conversation.

So, how will AI change the fashion industry in the next five years?

Much has been said about OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Not much connection has been made between this and the fashion industry mainly because Chat can get facts wrong, might not know facts after 2021, and is more of a writing tool. That did inspire me to work with it and get some insights on how AI can change the fashion industry.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already starting to have a significant impact on the fashion industry,and it is likely to continue transforming it in the next five years. Here are some potential ways that AI could change the fashion industry soon:

Personalisation: Your shopping habits, preferences and social media activity are just some of the things AI can and will use to create personalised shopping experiences for individuals. Stylists can work with AI to bespoke recommendations and styling advice with this much data about you, and retailers can enhance customer engagement and loyalty.

Virtual try-on and styling: AI can help customers visualise how clothing items will look on them through virtual try-on and styling tools.

Improved supply chain management: This must sound boring to you, but wait. AI can help collect and analyse data from the moment the cotton seed is planted, right up until it ends up in your laundry basket. This end-to-end relationship with the product means you, the consumer, can trust the process.

Design and production: Feeling like your creativity is blocked? AI can help you create and generate new designs, creating virtual prototypes for your perusal and going as far as predicting which styles will be popular. AI also helps with the parts of the business that are not so glamorous such as pattern-making, fitting, and quality control, all great for improving how efficient everything is, and to reduce the amount of money you would spend doing all this.

How can retailers prepare for a future with AI embedded in it?

This requires preparation. It is not enough to have an idea on how to approach it. One must – have a vision. It requires imagining how AI can be embedded in the operations.

Invest in AI technology: Think chatbots (those little pop-ups on an e-commerce site that come out to say hi and ask you what you want) to managing inventory management systems so you never run out of zippers and use chatbots for customer service.

Train employees: It is said the future belongs to those who know how to work with AI. No, the robots will not replace you, but they can make life easier. Employees who are constantly learning, reskilling and upskilling themselves are the future. You want your employees to be future-ready and your business to be future-proofed. Train your team to understand and interact with AI systems.

Collect and analyse data: This is one of the most beautiful things about AI – collecting and analysing data. Sweet, gorgeous data. Use this to understand your customer better. How old? How young? How much do they fit your brand? You would need to stay up-to-date with regulations related to AI such as data privacy and security laws to avoid legal and ethical issues. Issues that arise with or without AI because you have to know how to use the data you collect.

Is the African fashion industry ready for AI?

Well, to be honest, no. Chat has such terrible answers for this droning on about universities and training institutions without giving me a list of names to peruse. But can we get ready?

Yes. But it is rather slow. That being said, Vivo Woman has a chatbot which acts as a shopping assistant and engages you when you log into their site, ShopZetu. Vogue also did an experiment, taking the AI lens and using all the data curated across seasons, using them to predict menswear trends in 2023. “What we have done together is more of an exploration of data science than it is necessarily fashion,” stated Zak Krevitt, the artist who worked with Vogue to prophesy Fall 2023 runway trends. Feeding the AI model all of their curated images off other runways, the Vogue writer pinned down nine trends that dominated the market.

Meanwhile, the AI model synthensised 11 entirely new looks. Krevitt concluded, “But of course it’s not going to have the same soul and heart and spirit of something that was cut and sewn and then worn by a person.”Look at it this way. If you found yourself in my situation where you needed to be creative ASAP, you can draw ideas from AI.

According to, “AI also helps manufacturers and the entire fashion supply chain. Its ability to analyse trends, provide individual recommendations to each individual user, see what sticks, and then based on all this – predict what next season’s trends should look like,  is a miracle.”

Should fashion designers venture into the metaverse?

It seems Chat is quite encouraging on this one. It explains why.  “The metaverse is an emerging digital space where people can interact in a virtual environment using 3D and immersive technologies. As the metaverse grows in popularity, it is becoming an increasingly important space for fashion designers to explore and engage with their audiences.” Why?

Several reasons. There are new and interesting ways to interact with your clientele and create an immersion. These range from virtual catwalks to pop-up stores. It creates a new way to connect with audiences, especially new ones who get to meet your brand on a digital platform. In the metaverse, this world of VR (virtual reality) and AR (Augmented Reality)requires special equipment. You can partner with a tech brand and innovate, experiment and develop out of this world designs. If you are an early adopter, you can position yourself beautifully, setting up a platform that is ahead of the curve.

Let AI be your first step into a more tech-infused business. Embracing it will simplify your work, taking the slog out of fashion, leaving you with room to be curious and use your imagination.

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