Buzzword of the moment ‘AI’ – or artificial intelligence – is getting a moment in the fashion spotlight this week, with the launch of the first AI Fashion Week (AIFW), hosted by Maison Meta. The event will take place from April 20 to 21, and sees a huge mix of participants take to the machine-made stage to showcase their digitally-powered collections.
What began as a small Instagram campaign has quickly spiralled into a two day event, set to be held in New York’s Spring Studios – which typically serves as the home of the city’s globally renowned fashion week. Now, the venue will house Maison Meta’s creation, where the company’s growing community as well as those simply intrigued by the concept of machine-made creation will witness the power of AI in fashion. While no physical runways are set to take place for this edition, visitors can view a curated exhibition of AI collections, as well as panel talks which will discuss the concept in depth and how such technology can be used in the creation process.
The central part of the initiative is its competition, which has already welcomed around 350 submissions and consists of two stages – the first being an online vote where the general public can pick their favourite designer. Here, the 10 finalists will be selected to then go on to the second stage, showing in front of a jury. Despite being in its infancy, the fashion week already boasts a selection of high-profile fashion figures for its judging panel, including the VP of Adidas’s Three Stripes Studio, Erike Wykes-Sneyd, head of men’s casting at Celine, Natalie Hazzout, make up artist, Pat McGrath, and Vogue Japan’s head of editorial content, Tiffany Godoy, among others.
Winners to develop own brands via Maison Meta x Revolve AI Fashion Incubator
Another jury member is Michael Mente, the CEO and co-founder of e-tailer Revolve, AI Fashion Week’s prime partner. The fashion company will be backing the prize for the three winning designers, who will each take part in a fashion and technology incubator supporting them through the launch of their own brand and producing their AI collections. The winners will have access to Revolve’s own Los Angeles-based in-house studio, where the samples and collections will be developed to then be sold on its e-commerce platform.
In order to take part, applicants were provided with a series of guidelines to follow, like the requirement to create the quality of images one would typically see in a publication like Vogue. There also needed to be consistency in not just the collection, but the world itself, with those taking part also urged to submit imagery from beyond the runway, such as from a fictional backstage, the front row and on the streets outside, in order to fully encapsulate the identity and vision of the brand.
However, as the end purpose is to eventually produce the garments, a key requirement was that the designs were able to be physically made. While applicants were encouraged to explore various creative angles, it was also important that there were designs that could feasibly be created with the facilities available. “One of the things to emphasise is that what we are doing is very separate to Web3 and the metaverse that both initially offered this promise of fueling the creator economy, which we haven’t really seen happen,” Cyril Foiret, founder and creative director of Maison Meta, told FashionUnited. “Through this occasion, we wanted to make the creator economy really work in practice. The competition was free to enter, so that broadens the field for entrants, and with Revolve, it is really a matter of taking a designer’s creativity and allowing them to create a brand and monetise with the support of an e-commerce giant.”
Those applying for the competition range in both professions – from lawyers to students to UX designers – and age, with applicants in the scope of 16 to 68 years old. The same could be said for those who will be present at the event in New York, with representatives from companies such as Cartier, Google, Spotify and MasterCard expected to attend. “We see these AI tools as democratising creativity, especially in the fashion space,” said Nima Abbasi, a partner at Maison Meta, when asked about the reach. “It’s really about flattening the creative field, and in the end, like all good things, the people with the most creativity and imagination are able to come through. They don’t need teams or education in this space. They just need great imagination and a feel for what a collection could look like.”
Maison Meta looks to dismantle misinformation surrounding AI
For Maison Meta, AIFW is just as much about promoting creativity as it is about backing this form of technology throughout a company’s value chain, with the firm hoping that others feel inspired to also adopt this tech. The fashion week is not the final stop, however. AI is still in its inception and offers up a multitude of benefits, many of which are still yet to be explored. While the presence and skill of a human is something that could never be replaced, implementing such technology can speed up production processes, provide a consistent source of inspiration and cut the need for extensive resources when it comes to creating a collection. This in turn allows designers to turn their attention elsewhere, giving them the time to divert their focus towards craftsmanship and artisanal work that requires physical labour.
Despite these elements, conversations surrounding the topic continue to spiral online, with a sense of hesitancy often forming around AI and what it could mean for the future. This is an element that those at Maison Meta are aware of, as they hope that the fashion week, and its future plans, will also alleviate some of this scepticism. Abbasi noted: “Like a lot of elements in technology, sometimes the hesitancy comes from misunderstanding what’s possible. A lot of what we do is helping people understand how this works in order to take away from all the misinformation out there, because the reality is different. Compared to other areas of digitalisation, like Web3, where there was a lot of hype in the beginning but very few people actually executing, we see the application of AI being much more immediate. The results are having a greater impact.”
Maison Meta plans to continue being a leader in promoting AI’s development. In terms of next steps, Foiret reckons that such technology will become increasingly available for video, while there could also be a rise in more accessible forms of platforms that provide AI services. This is an area that Maison Meta hopes to cater to itself, with the company currently working on building up its own AI platform, despite being a young small studio itself. While information on the platform is still limited, Foiret said that it is likely to be for private use, offered to clients or in-house purposes as a source primarily focused on making the sector easier to enter.
In the meantime, however, AIFW will be the company’s primary focus. While the event is taking place in a physical format, those interested in getting involved are able to access the event’s app or website in order to browse and vote for the top 30 applicants, each of which will be on display during the fashion week’s exhibition. Over the coming weeks, the finalists will be revealed through the site and will go on to develop their brands as part of the Revolve incubator.