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What Does the Tech Invasion Mean for the Future of Fashion?

Tech giants are heading down the catwalk with trend­spotting software and cognitive computing that can predict which colours and styles will dominate consumers’ closets.

Dear fashion designers, your Black Mirror and Blade Runner nightmares are coming true: Fashion has joined the long list of industries facing an AI takeover, and the robot coup has already begun. From Amazon to Google, tech giants are heading down the catwalk with trend­spotting software and cognitive computing that can predict which colours and styles will dominate consumers’ closets. How? With brain mimicking: deep-learning machinery that can forecast the future better than any high-fashion human.

For sci-fi fans, this sounds like a spooky step toward technological singularity—the moment when AI transcends the abilities of people. But the marriage of modern machines and couture creatives has its perks. Fashion houses have historically spent huge amounts of time and money pulling information from social media, runway shows and style archives to identify the next season’s trends. AI is able to offer these same insights in a matter of seconds. So, if you’re a multimillion-dollar brand, what are you going to trust more: your gut or scientific data? Australian designer Jason Grech of couture brand JASONGRECH put his trust in the latter, and the gamble paid off.

He used IBM’s Watson, a cognitive question-answering computer system, to influence his collection for Melbourne Spring Fashion Week 2016. The information he collected showed that there was a shift happening in consumers’ colour preferences. With this knowledge, Grech traded in his tendency for darker hues for pastels. And guess what? Sales spiked. In an industry dependent on trends, insight is everything. But don’t worry, fashion designers: Your jobs are safe. Tech isn’t taking over creativity—it’s merely informing it (for now).

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Designer Jason Grech’s 2016 colour scheme was directly influenced by IBM cognitive technology. Photography via Instagram/@JasonGrech