Will AI Kill Fashion or Improve It?

I have to confess: I’m FAR from being an expert on AI.  But given my role at Google, and the work of my team members, it comes up in many conversations, is the engine behind some of the tools my team creates, and it makes its way into at least one article in my news feed a day.  So I have some understanding of it.

Lately, I’ve been talking about it in the context of fashion.  It’s undeniable that AI will have an increasingly greater impact on the fashion world in the coming years.  The question everyone asks is,”is that a good thing?” Like in other creative fields I work with, people are concerned that AI could squelch creativity or limit it altogether.  After all, its key value is automation. What happens to the human being behind all of this? Does all creativity just end? Will creative industries like fashion just fade away or change into something empty of artistic expression? One particular entrepreneur engaged in the fashion tech space argued that soon AI will scan our behaviors, predict what we’d like into an ideal outfit and then we’d scan the looks into a 3D printer which will print out our clothing at home.  No more need for fashion design and no more need for fashion retailers.

I don’t quite agree.  

I was asked to comment about this topic and few other fashion and strategy related issues in an interview with Geoffrey Colon, a marketing disruptor and innovator from Microsoft.  He hosts a podcast, “Disruptive FM” and interviews various people from across the globe every year at the Cannes Lions Festival.  His Cannes video is called “Fashion Boutique.” Geoffrey didn’t waste any time with me under the hot sun and homed into the interplay of AI and fashion.   No question AI will be able to get a faster, maybe even more, nuanced read of our habits, preferences and activities than a human being could.  And with that speed and nuance, it can create styles that every individual would likely find appealing. 

But there is still a need for the human being to oversee and correct or pivot the findings of AI.  Certain cultural norms or expectations may underpin our fashion sense that can’t be picked up through behavior alone.  Certain permutations and combinations may seem to look nice via an algorithm but appear “off” as the end result. Technology is our friend.  It does the tedious work for us so we can then build off of it and spend more time playing and evolving fashion.

Prior to my podcast I was mining my friend and fashion tech guru, Amanda Parkes for insight on this matter since she speaks on stages all over the world on this and related topics.  She highlighted a few fashion companies taking hold of AI like H&M and Myntra which uses machine learning to design full collections in record speeds. But there’s human beings along the way, tapping their sense of creativity to enhance machine learning to be that much more nuanced.  AI isn’t killing fashion or creativity; it’s allowing us to do it more quickly and in different ways.

AI will give us greater personalization than ever before, we we all love that (think the craze over Nike ID).  Could the hyper personalization we crave and receive from AI further discount the need for human side of fashion?  After all, we are getting exactly what suits us, right? Of course we seek clothing that benefits our specific lifestyles and needs.  But there’s the other side of fashion. The side that surprises, enlightens and inspires us.  It’s the side that opens our eyes to something we never even REALIZED we needed. AI can bring us closer to that, but it’s human beings who can take it to the next level.

As Dr. Anastassia Lauterbach, tech entrepreneur and author, said so adroitly: “The word intelligence in AI is highly confusing and causes funny discussions. Today there is nothing absolutely intelligent in Machine learning applications. Everything happens by design, and this design is done by humans – preferably in diverse teams. Humans decide what criteria get emphasized in a model. Machine learning scales what ever good or bad gets into the datasets and algorithms. Every profession needs to adjust to a world where some coding will be as normal as cooking today. Yes, you can eat in restaurants every day and let others cook for you. But it is maybe nice to be capable to produce something on your own. Same is true with AI in any industry. If you choose technology illiteracy, you can lament the death of creativity. Or you can use your great knowledge and add new skills, partner with technologists who are capable to listen, and do the work. AI is not a conscious agent. It is a tool…it can be used in a smart way, and support your ideas. The Intelligence on what and how remains yours.”

The opportunity is in front of us: retreat from AI or harness it to take creativity to newer and maybe even greater heights.

For the full video, click here (My piece starts around the 10 minute mark).

Fashion Tech: A Dichotomy or Beautiful Pairing? Two Amazing Experts Tell It Like It Is

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Last week I kicked off my series of posts dedicated to the amazing people I interviewed on my fashion/beauty tech podcast at the NRF Big Show.  This week I’m excited to share with you the fantastic discussion I had with tech genius and fashionista, Amanda Parkes; and entrepreneur, tech boss, founder of SWSI: Smart Women Smart Ideas, and producer of Fashion Geeks & Queen Boss, Heidi E Lehmann  (phew, lots of accomplishments, eh?).

We chatted about the beginnings of wearable tech, why women are at the forefront of the industry, and how fashion tech brands will win in this market.  One of my favorite discussions focused on the role of women in tech, and how fashion tech is actually a great way to bring young girls into the fields of engineering and technology.  This conversation reminded me of a post I wrote a few years back about how to get girls interested in STEM.  I suggested that we have an opportunity to attract girls with tech if we introduced them to it, not just through typical “boy” spaces, i.e., video games, but, rather, through the world of beauty (Want More Women in STEM? Start with Beauty).

Amanda told us a story about an article she read in a tech journal bashing wearable/fashion tech as something frivolous and unworthy of attention.  She was so incensed that she wrote an op-ed demonstrating how vital fashion is for the economy, and in no way a lesser form of tech endeavor.  After all, each of us wears something everyday, right?  We all benefit from or contribute to the world of fashion in more ways than we know.  So true!  For better or for worse, it’s been the business of fashion that has fueled and dramatically changed the economy over the centuries — think silk trade, textile manufacturing, cotton crops, to name a few.  Of course you can’t help but think that there’s a degree of sexism at play.  Well, if fashion tech is is seen as too “fem” then BRING IT ON!  Let’s get our girls excited about tech, whether that means creating cosmetics or their own clothing designs.

For full 25 minute conversation, have fun listening to the audio podcast.

https://soundcloud.com/kathleen-kiley/show-2-beautyskew-mixdown-1

And if you want to see it via our Periscope livestream, here ya go…please mind the background sound:

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Getting Up Close and Personal with the Hottest, Coolest, Ladies in Fashion Tech

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Warning: This is not your typical Beautyskew post :).

I’m taking a leap.  For those of you who follow my posts, you know that I share my thoughts in written form.  Well, for the first time, I’m going to leverage the camera for the next, few upcoming posts.  And even better, I’m going to bring in other points of view regarding beauty in culture!  Specifically, I’m going to be interviewing some of the coolest, smartest and most innovative ladies in the wearable tech space.

This weekend, I have the privilege of speaking on a panel at the NRF about my work on social media.  But, honestly, what I’m truly excited about is that same Sunday (January 15th) and Tuesday, January 17th, I will be interviewing the following amazing women:
1.Neha Signh @ObsessVR: Founder and CEO of Obsess; former Head of Product at Vogue

2. Monica Phromsavanh @MyModaBox: Founder of Modabox; former Burberry, Limelight Shops

3.Heidi Lehmann Founder SWSI @HeidiLehmann: Producer Fashion Geeks

4. Dr. Amanda Parkes Chief Technologist Manufacture NY & Visiting Scientist MIT @amandajparkes: Host Fashion Geeks

5. Dolly Singh: Thesis Couture founder

6. Alison Lewis: founder Switch Embassy

7. Christina D’Avignon @getringly: Ringly founder

8. Jackie Trebilcock: founder I NY FASHION TECH LAB @NYTFlab

9. Karen Moon: Co-Founder Trendalytics; Former Gap, Goldman Sachs&Co
@TheKarenMoon

10.Veronika Harbick: founder @ThursdayFinest 3D Printer

11. Robin Raskin: CES Founder Living In Digital Times @robinr – shares FashionTech trends hot off the #CES17 Showroom Floor

And what’s even better?  I get to cohost with my amazing and fun buddies:
1. James Eschricht from ESPN @JcreativESPN
2.Valerie De La Rosa from CONDE NAST @VDLR

What  a line up!?

We will be discussing these women’s amazing journeys, their products — from hi tech shoes (which I will be wearing!) to 3D printed scarves, their opinions on the merging to technology, fashion and culture.

I have to admit, I’m a bit nervous.  I’ve never done anything like this before.  But what’s a better way to kick 2017 then by diving knee deep into some new, scary terrain?

If you can join in person, please do.  Here is the full agenda at the NRFiLab. Otherwise, hang on for when we stream via Beautyskew.

I can’t wait!