Fashion models recently sashayed down Paris Fashion Week catwalks in outfits designed by deep neural nets.

What’s new: Swedish design firm Acne Studios based its 2020 fall/winter men’s line on output from a generative adversarial network.

How it works: AI artist Robbie Barrat trained a GAN to generate images of high-fashion outfits by feeding it thousands of pictures of models wearing Acne’s past work. The results were often surreal (though not much more so than Acne’s usual designs).

  • Acne’s creative director chose some favorites and adapted them for the real world. He used big patches of sewn-on cloth to recreate the generated images’ bold color swatches, for instance, and unraveled fabric to mimic their glitchy textures.
  • Many jackets in the generated images featured large, curved openings at the waist, apparently because the network conflated pockets with hemlines.

Behind the news: Barrat, a 20-year-old machine learning engineer, worked on Nvidia’s self-driving car program and Stanford’s Khatri Lab biomedical research team. He has used AI to generate landscapes and nudes as well as lyrics in the style of Kanye West. In 2017, a trio of French art students used one of his models to create an artwork that sold for nearly half a million dollars.

Why it matters: In the fashion industry, AI is the new black.

  • Indian fast-fashion company Myntra uses a model called Ratatouille to design t-shirts and kurtas (a long-sleeved, collarless shirt popular in south Asia).
  • Christopher Wylie, who coded (and subsequently blew the whistle on) Cambridge Analytica’s effort to glean political insights from Facebook posts, is using his data-mining savvy to target customers for clothing giant H&M.

Yes, but: Acne’s GAN-driven outfits didn’t wow all the critics in Paris. Vogue’s Luke Leitch wrote: “So the good news is that, on the evidence of this highly original Acne menswear collection, clothes design is not a human profession under threat from AI anytime soon.”

We’re thinking: If we didn’t already know, we never would have guessed that these clothes were designed by a GAN. We’re not sure whether that’s a testament to the designers’ genius or our hopeless fashion sense.


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