Fifteen FIT students from three majors—Textile Development and Marketing, International Trade and Marketing for the Fashion Industries, and Fashion Design—plus three faculty mentors teamed up with IBM and Tommy Hilfiger last September to explore how artificial intelligence (AI) can enhance design inspiration and improve manufacturing and marketing. The project was developed and overseen by the FIT/Infor Design and Tech Lab.
The students were given access to IBM Research’s AI capabilities including computer vision, natural language understanding, and deep learning techniques specifically trained with fashion data. Those tools were applied to 15,000 of Tommy Hilfiger’s product images, some 600,000 publicly available runway images, and nearly 100,000 patterns from fabric sites. IBM researchers helped translate the data into information about key silhouettes, colors, and novel prints and patterns that the Fashion Design students used as inspiration to create original designs that marry the Tommy Hilfiger brand with forward-looking design and retail concepts.
“The machine-learning analysis gave us insights about the Tommy Hilfiger ‘DNA’ that we couldn’t begin to consume or understand with the human mind,” said Michael Ferraro, executive director of the FIT/Infor Design and Tech Lab. The student designers used these insights to infuse their designs with innovative tech capabilities.
“In addition to exploring how AI might impact decision-making in fashion design, we explored how tools such as social media listening and voice recognition can create a more personalized shopping experience built around an interactive ‘smart’ supply chain strategy that minimizes waste and environmental impact,” noted Ferraro.
Grace McCarty designed a plaid tech jacket made with advanced color-changing fibers that respond to AI analysis of voice and social media feeds. The jacket would be made of eco-friendly materials, and consumers would be able to customize their jackets.
McCarty also designed a cognitive print jacket and sweatshirt that use the American tradition of quilting to reference the American heritage of the Tommy Hilfiger brand. Garments would be customizable based on new IBM AI-generated pattern options from the Hilfiger design family.
Amy Tae Hwa Eun designed a SolarActive™ sundress, inspired by the Hilfiger silhouettes and color palette, with advanced solar reactive fabric and customer personalization. One strap of the dress has the initials TH for Tommy Hilfiger; the other strap is customized with the purchaser’s initials. Customers choose from a range of color options.
Other designs include a jacket by Stefka De Ruiter that uses the customer’s social personality to derive an avatar that becomes a design element; a bomber jacket by Luis Hernandez that uses Watson Personality Insights on the customer’s Twitter account to determine individualized striping and color; and a white “smart” parka that could display current events, temperature, train updates, music, and social media on a removable OLED screen using voice control and conductive fibers.
These designs respond to the fact that younger customers today want a personalized shopping experience. According to an IBM study, 52 percent of women in Generation Z would like to see tools that allow them to customize products. This coincides with an ever-increasing expectation for speed in delivery and a greater emphasis on sustainability. Customization provides that speed, and with garments made on demand, overstock is greatly reduced.
Executives from Tommy Hilfiger and PVH, the parent company of Hilfiger, selected Grace McCarty’s plaid tech jacket as the top design. This, McCarty’s cognitive print jacket, and Amy Tae Hwa Eun’s SolarActive™ sundress were made into samples that were showcased in a display about the project at NRF 2018, Retail’s Big Show, held at the Javits Center January 14-16.
As Avery Baker, Tommy Hilfiger’s chief brand officer, said in a blog post on IBM’s THINK site, “These young designers truly embody this spirit by showcasing the successful integration of fashion, technology and science.”
“I loved the idea that we collaborated with IBM and FIT,” Hilfiger said in a talk at NRF. “What it proved to us is all the information that is out there can be reachable with a click. When FIT students took our archives, they were able to access everything we did in the past and apply it to today’s design concepts. It’s a tremendous breakthrough.”