As we step closer to the Chinese year of the wood dragon on 10 February and the end of the first month of 2024, it would make sense for 2023’s big fashion trends to disappear such as the ridiculously tiny purses and the Mschf big red boots – you know which ones I’m talking about.

But one trend that has snuck through the past year and has continued on its upwards trajectory is the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) across the fashion industry.

The UK’s responsible fashion sourcing trade show, Source Fashion has already predicted AI will dominate retail conversations this year, especially in product development.

AI has been transforming various aspects of businesses, including personalised shopping experiences, design, supply chain optimisation and fashion forecasting.

With advances being made in technology everyday, it’s not surprising many companies and brands are trying their best to keep up.

For example, British retailer Marks and Spencer (M&S) partnered with integrated planning software provider o9 Solutions in an attempt to modernise its end-to-end planning systems for its clothing and home business last week.

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M&S aimed to harness the power of AI to digitally transform its existing systems, enhance efficiency, streamline processes and adapt to the dynamic demands of the modern market.

Meanwhile, US lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret & Co announced a multi-year partnership with Google Cloud that is focused on leveraging AI and generative AI technologies.

Victoria’s Secret & Co’s objective is simple – to revolutionise the online shopping experience by creating “more personalised and inclusive interactions” for its customers on a global scale.

Both these moves reflect the industry’s acknowledgement of AI being a transformative force capable of reshaping customer engagement strategies.

US retail giant Walmart has taken the customer experience a step further by introducing Augmented Reality (AR) technology that will allow consumers to share virtual outfits with friends and get feedback on the styles they have created.

The new technology was unveiled alongside a search tool powered by AI for iOS users. This tool enables Walmart customers to search for specific events or requirements without needing to individually add each item to their shopping cart.

This week’s developments serve as a preview of what lies ahead – a future where AI is not just seen as a technological tool but as a strategic enabler that can shape how businesses operate and interact with consumers.

The potential risks of AI for the fashion industry

However, just like with anything, there are potential risks associated with AI’s advanced capabilities. These can be security concerns, job displacement concerns, ethical dilemmas, and privacy issues, to name a few.

The AI Governance Alliance (AIGA) of the World Economic Forum (WEF) called for greater global collaboration to address potential risks associated with advanced AI technology last week.

In three comprehensive reports, the alliance focused on unlocking the value and creating a framework for generative AI (GenAI) usage. A call was made by AIGA for a collaborative worldwide initiative to ensure equitable and responsible access to AI.

AIGA encouraged experts in various sectors to address key areas such as improving data quality across nations, boosting computational resources, adapting foundation models to suit local challenges and education to navigate local AI ecosystems effectively.

The World Economic Forum’s emphasis on governance underlines the importance of responsible AI practices for long-term societal benefit and reflects a growing awareness of the importance of global cooperation in navigating the complex landscape of AI.

As AI becomes more ingrained in our daily lives, the key will be to strike a balance between innovation and ethical considerations.

The responsible and ethical use of AI will undoubtedly be at the forefront of discussions in boardrooms, policy forums, and technology conferences alike.

Looking ahead to 2024, we can expect a continued surge in AI integration across the fashion supply chain. Enhanced efficiency, data-driven decision-making, and personalised customer experiences will be just the tip of the iceberg.

Just Style’s top stories last week

US fashion sector seeks to improve targeting of Uyghur forced labour goods

The US fashion industry continues to develop a joint approach with the US government to focus on high-risk trade from Uyghur forced labour without stopping legitimate trade.

Vietnam beats China for most UFLPA reviewed shipments in 2023

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s latest statistics shows Vietnam had the most apparel, footwear and textile goods reviewed by shipment value ($19.14m) as part of the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act (UFLPA) with China sitting in second place with $17.70m worth of detained goods.

Superdry reportedly considers debt options after years of ‘lacklustre’ results

UK fashion brand Superdry is allegedly in talks with accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to consider debt-raising options just weeks after it issued a profit warning.

Washington joins California, New York with fashion regulation bill

The US state of Washington has followed New York and California’s lead and introduced a bill to tackle the environmental impacts of fashion including pollution and carbon emissions.

Arvind, Gap Inc. innovation centre aims to redefine water practices in apparel manufacturing

Indian textile conglomerate, Arvind Ltd and US apparel company, Gap Inc. have announced the inauguration of the Global Water Innovation Centre for Action (GWICA) at Arvind’s Santej unit to transform water management practices within the global textile and apparel industry.

Vivobarefoot, Balena to launch 3D-printed biodegradable shoe

UK shoe manufacturer Vivobarefoot has partnered with material science company Balena to create a 3D-printed shoe made from compostable materials.

Bangladesh garment factory ‘closed’ as workers protest ‘unfair termination’

According to local news reports, around 500 garment workers from Anlima Textile Limited in Bangladesh have been protesting the “unfair” termination of their co-workers and non-payment of their arrears which has led to “indefinite” closure of the factory.

Security, energy issues hinder Mexico apparel sector’s nearshoring efforts

Concerns about security and energy costs in Mexico could cost its clothing and textile industry a golden opportunity to seize nearshoring business in the United States, business experts have warned.