If you’re like me, you’d have watched the film I, Robot with Will Smith in 2004 (wow, yep; that long ago) filled with a small amount of fear about the AI revolution.

You’d have observed the robots initially doing what they were programmed to do before suddenly turning on their owners, doing whatever they pleased and creating general mayhem and chaos. But I say a small amount of fear because back in the early noughties, it felt like AI was something that was forever away. Surely we would have flying cars by the time everyone had robots in their homes, right?

But less than 20 years in, AI is a very real conversation. In fact, it’s not even a conversation any more – we are way past that point. In the apparel sector, we’re hearing that if you don’t embrace AI now, there’s a chance you’ll be left behind. Your company may even struggle to survive. It’s gotten very real, very fast.

AI is dominating conversations in almost every space you can think of. In the fashion sector, global brand names like M&S, NIKE, Next and H&M have applied the tech to some degree within their organisations.

According to research from GlobalData, the market will be worth $908.7bn by 2030.

But, as the film suggests, while there are so many positive takeaways from the implementation of AI – the speeding up of processes, effectiveness, efficiencies, sustainability savings – there are moral and ethical implications of harnessing the tech. Where to apply it so that it makes the biggest differences, needs to be carefully considered.

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Just last week news surfaced of an algorithms lawsuit against Chinese ultra-fast fashion retailer Shein, which alleged the tech could facilitate industrial-scale copying, while compounding overproduction and overconsumption.

But just ahead of this, a study was published suggesting AI could identify the source of apparel waste and make fashion brands accountable for the end-of-life of their products.

Industry experts suggest the true value of AI can be realised if it is applied to areas of human-AI interaction, decision making and creation in clothing making, while brands can leverage the benefits of human-AI interaction in retail stores, decision making and creation.

Many retailers are using generative AI to create a personalised shopping experience and to support AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants since the more information acquired by the programme, the more its responses improve.

AI has certainly been creating a buzz across the industry for some time with GlobalData’s patent analytics suggesting AI-related patents almost tripled between 2016 and 2023.

And while there are arguments for and against the implementation of the tech in the industry, one thing is certain: it can no longer be ignored or treated as a passing fad. It is absolutely here to stay.

Top news stories on Just Style last week

How Türkiye’s Ozmoz Kidswear goes ‘extra mile’ to fend off competition
Türkiye’s apparel suppliers are worried about soaring costs and retaining custom. Mahir Ozden, textile engineer and founder of apparel supplier and brand Ozmoz, tells Just Style being fluid during times of changing demand and willing to try new things can help producers stay afloat.

Shein takes stake in Forever 21 operator SPARC to drive US ambition
Shein has struck a deal to acquire a third of Forever 21’s US operator SPARC Group as it looks to boost its presence in the US market.

Fashion brands urged to audit amid Walmart, Centric probe into Cambodia prison workers
Allegations that garments made by Cambodian prison inmates have been linked to suppliers for US supermarket Walmart and apparel company Centric Brands highlight the importance of fashion retailers having good audit and control practices in place.

Signal: Climate crisis takes centre stage for fashion industry
Concerns over climate change are a hot topic for apparel company filings over the last year, beating both ESG and Covid, according to GlobalData.

Cutting, sewing methods key to reducing garment microfibre pollution
A new study suggests applying certain cutting and sewing methods during the fashion manufacturing process can significantly reduce the amount of microfibres released when the garments are washed.

US court ruling could aid fashion goods in forced labour detention
The US government continues to curb the import of goods produced with alleged forced labour, however, a recent court ruling has criticised US Customs and Border Protection for detaining goods with “little to no information”.

Lingerie brand Nudea to become circular by 2030, expand product offering
B-Corp certified lingerie brand Nudea announces plans to become fully circular by 2030 and sets its sights on growing within the sleepwear category.

Crystal International seeks to advance sustainable garment production
Apparel manufacturer Crystal International Group announces an array of industry programmes and partnerships as part of its goal to boost sustainability across the sector.