AI and the Apparel Industry

November 13, 2018

If you’re a fan of the 90s classic movie Clueless you likely remember the scene when Cher used a software tool to sort through her wardrobe, selecting the iconic plaid outfit. Today, the app Pureple helps create new outfits from your existing wardrobe by combining often-overlooked pieces for a whole new look. Apps like Pureple hope to help people maximize the clothes in their closet by using artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) harnesses computing power to perform complex tasks that normally require human intelligence and reasoning. It’s a topic that regularly pops up in the news both because of excitement for what AI can do and concern about what it could do.

In our industry, AI is used to analyze massive amounts of data to draw ideas or conclusions, particularly around the trends of what people are wearing now and what they’ll wear in the future. For example, if you visit Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter and search for #fashion, the results will be overwhelming. Given the right data set, however, AI analyzes this information and delivers usable, relevant results.

AI is being used in the apparel industry in a variety of real-world ways. The StreetStyle project – led by a computer science team at Cornell University – has developed a map of style trends and influencers by analyzing 14.5 million photos of people shared publicly on social media. The resulting data has helped answer questions like how many people wore black in Los Angeles today compared with two years ago, or when people are more likely to wear the color white.

Additionally, AI is used by retail companies big and small (including Seattle-area juggernaut, Amazon) to spot trends, understand consumer preferences, analyze price and stock movements, and produce new variations of garment designs.

Stitch Fix, the online styling service with 2.2 million active customers, helps connect the company with their end-users through a digital personal stylist. It uses a combination of AI and human stylists to analyze style trends, body measurements, customer feedback and preferences to provide recommendations.

From digital assistants to social media to market trends, AI a fascinating field with a ton of opportunities for the apparel industry.