Will AI replace Tom Ford and Co.?

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

Artificial intelligence exists since 1956 and has made giant steps: In 1997, the technology beat the reigning world champion in chess [10] and defeated the best human in the strategy board game ‘GO’ [11]. How likely is it that AI will soon also defeat our Tom Ford’s and Karl Lagerfeld’s? Let’s see!

AI in a nutshell:

AI is a technique that enables machines to mimic human behaviour [9].

AI can be broken down into different areas. Still, computer vision (CV) is particularly important for the fashion industry: The industry heavily communicates through images [8], and CV is used to analyze images that users upload. One promising use case is trend forecasting.

Trend forecasting:

In the context of AI, it is often discussed if technology can replace or even beat fashion designers [1]. Fashion designers gain inspiration for new fashion trends from a myriad of sources [7] such as the fashion pipeline (see image 1). In the future, AI could become another indispensable source for designer’s creativity [2].

In 2018, a fascinating collaboration happened between Tommy Hilfiger, IBM and The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT): FIT students were given access to IBM Research’s AI capabilities [3] that were applied to more than 15,000 Tommy Hilfiger product images [4]. The gained insights into real-time fashion trends were used to create an impressive AI-driven design (see image 2).

One problem of using AI in fashion trend forecasting is that brands are inherently complex (see image 3) [8]. It is rather unlikely that an AI algorithm can tap into each of the distinct components, look at them holistically and then wave them into the latest fashion trends to create new garments.

Another challenge is that designer’s attitude towards AI will be mainly influenced by its perceived usefulness and ease of use [6]: So far AI interfaces like the one from IBM are not user-friendly enough and still require the expertise of an IT specialist inhibiting their wide adoption [3]. Lastly, the current AI algorithms are not always accurate in analyzing fashion trends [12].


I’m sorry AI, but I doubt that you can continue your impressive victorious march also in the fashion industry. Machines will not think Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci or Chanel – this task remains in the hands of fashion designers. However, I have no doubt that AI will become the new assistant of fashion designers.


[1] Alaia, K. (2019, August 1). Will artificial intelligence replace fashion luxury designers? Retrieved from Moola Forum : https://www.moolaforum.com/will-artificial-intelligence-replace-fashion-luxury-designers/ [Accessed: 14/09/2020]

[2] Mishra, G. (2019, April 19). The future is here: AI in fashion design takes the central stage . Retrieved from Cyfuture : https://cyfuture.com/blog/the-future-is-here-ai-in-fashion-design-takes-the-central-stage/ [Accessed: 14/09/2020]

[3] Arthur, R. (2018, January 15). Artificial intelligence empowers designers in IBM, Tommy Hilfiger and FIT collaboration . Retrieved from Forbes : https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelarthur/2018/01/15/ai-ibm-tommy-hilfiger/#1a6ba92a78ac [Accessed: 15/09/2020]

[4] Fit Newsroom. (2018, February 1). Students team with IBM and Tommy Hilfiger to use AI. Retrieved from Fit Newsroom: https://news.fitnyc.edu/2018/02/01/students-team-with-ibm-and-tommy-hilfiger-to-utilize-ai-to-elevate-design-manufacturing-and-marketing/ [Accessed: 14/09/2020]

[5] IBM Industries . (2018, January 17). How smart is your jacket? Retrieved from Medium : https://medium.com/ibmindustrious/tommy-hilfiger-embraces-ai-with-future-forward-fashion-prototypes-8373ba2dc07a [Accessed: 15/09/2020]

[6] Liang , Y., Lee, S.-H., & Workman, J. (2019). Implementation of Artificial Intelligence in Fashion: Are Consumers Ready? Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 38(1), 3-18.

[7] Giri, C., Jain, S., Zeng , X., & Bruniaux, P. (2019). A Detailed Review of Artificial Intelligence Applied in the Fashion and Apparel Industry. IEEE Access, 7, 95376-95396.

[8] Corbellini , E., & Saviolo , S. (2009). Managing fashion and luxury companies . Milano: Rizzoli Etas.

[9] Luce, L. (2018). Artificial Intelligence for Fashion: How AI is Revolutionizing the Fashion Industry . New York City : Apress.

[10] Lincoln, K. (2018, November 8). Deep You. Retrieved from The Ringer: https://www.theringer.com/tech/2018/11/8/18069092/chess-alphazero-alphago-go-stockfish-artificial-intelligence-future [Accessed: 16/09/2020]

[11] Etherington, D. (2017, May 23). Google's AlphaGo AI beats the world's best human GO player . Retrieved from TechCrunch : https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/23/googles-alphago-ai-beats-the-worlds-best-human-go-player/ [Accessed: 14/09/2020]

[12] Shi, M., & Lewis, D. v. (2020). Using Artificial Intelligence to Analyze Fashion Trends . Computer Science , 1-39.

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