Levi’s is teaming up with an AI company on computer-generated fashion models to “complement human models.” The company views this decision as part of a “digital transformation journey” of diversity, equity, inclusion and sustainability. Although it seems noble at first glance, Levi’s essentially hires a robot to generate the appearance of diversity while shedding the burden of paying for human beings who represent the qualities she wants to see associated with her brand.
Levi Strauss is teaming up with Amsterdam-based digital modeling studio Lalaland.ai for this initiative. Founded in 2019, the company’s mission is to “see more representation in the fashion industry” and “create an inclusive, sustainable and diverse design chain”. It aims to let customers see what various fashion items would look like on someone who looks like them via “hyper-realistic” models “of every body type, age, height and skin tone”.
Levi’s announcement echoes that branding, saying the partnership is about “increasing the number and diversity of our designs for our products in a sustainable way.” The company continues, “We view fashion and technology as both an art and a science, and are thrilled to partner with Lalaland.ai, a company with such great technology that can help continue our journey towards a more diverse and inclusive customer experience.
Levi’s claims that “AI will probably never fully replace human models for us” (note the “likely” qualifier). But I can’t help but see this as the first step in a slow, dystopian march toward industry automation. As an AI-generated “photograph”, art And in writing become increasingly compelling, we would be naive to take companies at face value when they insist that measures like this are about good public relations principles, such as celebrating diversity and Environmental Protection. At the very least, it’s extremely convenient that these lofty designs also allow them to mass-produce something that previously required hiring staff.
Levi Strauss would have began a 12-19 month process of cutting around 800 jobs, or almost 20% of its workforce, last year. It was part of a restructuring plan to save around $75-100 million a year.