Models generated by artificial intelligence could bring more diversity to the fashion industry or leave it with less | business

London model Alexsandrah has a twin, but not in the way you'd expect: her counterpart is made of pixels instead of flesh and blood.

The virtual twin was generated by artificial intelligence and has already appeared as a stand-in for the real-life Alexsandra in a photo shoot. Alexsandrah, who goes by her first name professionally, gets credit and compensation whenever she gets used to her AI version, like a human model.

Alexsandrah says that she and her alter ego mirror each other “right down to the baby's hair”. And it's yet another example of how AI is transforming the creative industries and how humans can be compensated or not.

Proponents say the growing use of artificial intelligence in fashion modeling showcases diversity in all shapes and sizes, allowing consumers to make more tailored purchasing decisions, which in turn reduces fashion waste from product returns. And digital modeling saves money for companies and creates opportunities for people who want to work with technology.

But critics worry that digital models could put human models and other professionals like makeup artists and photographers out of work. Unsuspecting consumers could also be fooled into thinking the AI ​​models are real, and companies could claim credit for meeting diversity commitments without using real humans.

“Fashion is exclusive, with limited opportunities for people of color to enter,” said Sara Ziff, a former fashion model and founder of the Model Alliance, a non-profit organization that aims to promote workers' rights in the fashion industry. “I think the use of AI to distort racial representation and marginalize real models of color reveals this troubling gap between the industry's stated intentions and its actual actions.”

Women of color in particular have long faced higher barriers to entry into modeling, and AI could alter some of the gains they've made. The data suggests that women are more likely to work in occupations where technology could be applied and are more at risk of displacement than men.

In March 2023, iconic denim brand Levi Strauss & Company announced that it would test AI-generated models produced by Amsterdam-based company to add a wider range of body types and underrepresented demographics to its web site But after receiving widespread backlash, Levi clarified that he was not backing down on his plans for live photo shoots, the use of live models, or his commitment to working with diverse models.

“We do not see this (AI) pilot as a means to advance diversity or as a substitute for real action that needs to be taken to meet our diversity, equity and inclusion goals and should not have been portrayed as such,” Levi Levi. he said in his statement at the time.

The company said last month that it has no plans to scale the AI ​​program.

The Associated Press reached out to other retailers to ask if they use artificial intelligence fashion models. Target, Kohl's and fast fashion giant Shein declined to comment; Temu did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, spokespeople for Nieman Marcus, H&M, Walmart and Macy's said their respective companies do not use artificial intelligence models, although Walmart clarified that “suppliers may have a different approach to the photography they provide for their products, but not we have that information.”

However, companies that generate AI models are finding demand for the technology, including, which was co-founded by Michael Musandu after he became frustrated by the lack of clothing models that looked like him.

“A model doesn't represent everyone who is actually shopping and buying a product,” he said. “As a person of color, I felt this painfully.”

Musandu says his product is meant to complement traditional photo shoots, not replace them. Instead of seeing one model, shoppers could see nine to twelve models using filters of different sizes, which would enrich their shopping experience and help reduce product returns and fashion waste.

The technology is actually creating new jobs, as pays humans to train its algorithms, Musandu said.

And if brands “take inclusion efforts seriously, they will continue to hire these models of color,” she added.

London-based model Alexsandra, who is Black, says her digital counterpart has helped her distinguish herself in the fashion industry. In fact, the real-life Alexsandrah was even replaced by a black computer-generated model named Shudu, created by Cameron Wilson, a former fashion photographer turned CEO of The Diigitals, a UK-based digital modeling agency.

Wilson, who is white and uses they/them pronouns, designed Shudu in 2017, described on Instagram as “the world's first digital supermodel.” But critics at the time accused Wilson of cultural appropriation and digital blackface.

Wilson took the experience as a lesson and transformed The Diigitals to ensure that Shudu, who was hired by Louis Vuitton and BMW, did not take away opportunities, but instead opened up possibilities for women of color. Alexsandrah, for example, modeled in person as Shudu for Vogue Australia, and writer Ama Badu invented Shudu's backstory and performs her voice for interviews.

Alexsandrah said she is “extremely proud” of her work with The Diigitals, which created its own AI twin: “It's something that even though we're not here, future generations can look back and say, 'These are the pioneers. . '”

But for Yve Edmond, a New York-area model who works with major retailers to check the fit of clothes before selling them to consumers, the rise of AI in fashion modeling feels more insidious.

Edmond is concerned that modeling agencies and companies are taking advantage of models, who are generally independent contractors with few job protections in the U.S., by using their photos to train AI systems without their consent or compensation .

She described an incident in which a client asked to photograph Edmond moving his arms, crouching and walking for “research” purposes. Edmond refused and later felt ripped off: her modeling agency told her she was being hired for an installation, not to build an avatar.

“This is a total violation,” he said. “It was very disappointing for me.”

But in the absence of AI regulations, it is up to companies to be transparent and ethical about implementing AI technology. And Ziff, the founder of the Model Alliance, compares the current lack of legal protection for fashion workers to the “wild west”.

That's why the Model Alliance is pushing for legislation like the one being considered in New York state, in which a provision of the Fashion Workers Act would require management companies and brands to obtain clear written consent from models to create or use the digital replica of a model; specify the amount and duration of the compensation, and prohibit altering or manipulating the digital replica of the models without their consent.

Alexsandrah says that with ethical use and the right legal regulations, AI can open doors for more models of color like her. He has let his customers know he has an AI replica and directs any questions about its use through Wilson, whom he describes as “someone I know, love, trust and is my friend.” Wilson says they make sure any compensation for Alexsandrah's AI is comparable to what she would make in person.

Edmond, however, is more of a purist: “We have this amazing Earth that we live in. And you have a person of every shade, of every height, of every size. Why not find that person and compensate that person? ”


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