The fashion industry has long been criticized for its lack of diversity and representation in advertising campaigns and runway shows. However, with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), fashion brands are turning to custom AI models to supplement human models and increase diversity in size, skin tone, and age. This shift towards inclusivity has garnered attention from consumers, but it also raises questions about the impact of computer-generated models on the fashion industry and society as a whole.
Custom AI Models in Fashion Campaigns
Levi’s and Calvin Klein are among the fashion brands that have partnered with LaLaLand.ai, a digital studio that creates customized AI models. Levi’s has debuted an AI-generated model on its e-commerce website, which the brand says will supplement human models in representing diverse body types, ages, races, and ethnicities. The spokesperson for Levi’s said, “We are excited about a world where consumers can see more models on our site, enabling us to create a more personal and inclusive shopping experience.
Michael Musandu, the founder of LaLaLand.ai, developed the software in part because he struggled to find models who look like him. He believes that AI models will not replace human models, but rather allow brands to show off different clothes on as many body types as possible. For example, brands can use fake avatars to cut costs they would spend on hiring models, photographers, hair stylists, and makeup artists for those models.
Diversity and Inclusivity: Real or Virtual?
While AI models offer a virtual sense of inclusivity, some critics argue that it is not enough to replace real human models. There are concerns about the ethics of generating digital representations of models from different races, body types, and ages, particularly in cases where the digital model is created for a piece where they only photographed a white human model. This practice has been referred to as a form of “digital blackface.”
Moreover, the creators of AI models have been criticized for perpetuating the same narrow beauty standards that the fashion industry has long upheld. For instance, AI models never age, and they tend to have smaller body types and be in their 20s and 30s. Additionally, some of the AI models have a creepy or unrealistic appearance, such as unnervingly plastic-looking faces and extra-long, slender fingers that belong in a horror film.
The Future of AI Models in Fashion
Despite the criticisms, the use of AI models in the fashion industry is likely to grow in the future. Deep Agency, another Netherlands-based AI company, has launched its own “AI modeling agency” for creators to “say goodbye to traditional photoshoots.” Paid subscribers receive access to 12 models of various races, although all appear to be smaller-bodied and in their 20s and 30s.
As the technology improves, AI models will become more realistic and potentially indistinguishable from human models. However, the debate around the impact of AI models on the fashion industry and society will continue. While AI models offer a virtual sense of inclusivity, it is essential for brands to prioritize hiring a diverse cast of human models in their campaigns and runway shows, alongside supplementing with AI-generated models.
AI-generated models offer fashion brands an opportunity to showcase their products on a diverse range of virtual bodies, but the industry should not rely solely on computer-generated models. It is essential to hire a diverse cast of human models in campaigns and runway shows to reflect the broad consumer base. The fashion industry must continue to evolve to represent and celebrate all individuals, regardless of their age, skin tone, body type, and size, both in real life and in the digital world.