US Reporter

Backlash Against Levi’s AI Modeling Project Over Diversity and Job Displacement Concerns

Levi’s announcement that it is experimenting with virtual clothing models created by artificial intelligence has drawn widespread criticism from the industry over the past month. The company’s plans have caused long-standing concerns in the industry. 

For online customers, Levi’s worked with AI design company to display various Levi’s-wearing individuals. However, concerns about diversity and the possibility of professional models losing their jobs were quickly raised by the use of AI-generated models.

Detractors of the partnership argued that the company was risking the employment of traditional models in order to address representational issues in a cost-effective manner. They contend that when you hire a professional model, you must pay an agency, employ a stylist, apply makeup, and provide food for them while they are on location. Levi’s was therefore taking this action to save money.

Levi’s kept charges from getting cost-slicing connected with the simulated intelligence displaying project, with a representative explaining that the simulated intelligence models wouldn’t supplant but instead supplement its utilization of live models during photoshoots.

On the other hand, when asked to comment, Lalaland did not do so. The fashion industry is not the only one that has concerns about technology replacing human jobs. However, as the use of AI in the fashion industry continues to rise, some employees are becoming increasingly concerned about the consequences.

Over 100 models are represented by Yanii Models, run by Yanii Gough, and many of them are eager to resume their regular schedules as the fashion industry recovers from pandemic-related setbacks.

Concerns about diversity in the fashion industry are also raised by the use of AI-generated models. Models with a wide range of body types, sizes, and skin tones could be created using AI technology. Despite this, the models are made by algorithms, which may have biases built in, especially if the data used to train them isn’t diverse.

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Fashion Companies

To avoid reinforcing harmful stereotypes, fashion companies must ensure that the data used to train AI models is diverse and inclusive. This will help ensure that AI-generated models accurately reflect the diversity of the population.

As the fashion industry continues to explore AI’s potential, it must also grapple with the impact on workers. While AI-generated models may offer cost savings and flexibility, they also have the potential to displace human labor, particularly for low-paid and precarious workers.

In conclusion, the fashion industry must consider the impact of AI on workers and ensure that it does not contribute to the exploitation of low-paid and precarious workers. It must also ensure that the use of AI does not reinforce harmful stereotypes and actively work to promote diversity and inclusivity. Only then can the industry truly harness the potential of AI while ensuring that it benefits everyone involved.

While Levi’s has denied any intention to replace photoshoots with live models, worries about technology displacing human labor are nothing new. AI has been used in fashion for years, but its expansion in the industry is raising alarms among workers. 

Model Yanii Gough said many are still “dying to get back to consistency” as the industry emerges from pandemic-related disruptions. She and others also worry about models’ images being used without their permission via AI.

The rise of AI modeling firms allows clients to simply send an email to the agency with specific requests, and someone will find the appropriate person or synthetic model. 

The world’s first digital supermodel, Shudu, created in 2017 by The Diigitals, an AI modeling agency, has booked gigs with high-end brands such as BMW and Louis Vuitton. However, Shudu and The Diigitals have drawn criticism for the agency’s founder, Cameron-James Wilson, who is white, creating a Black female digital model.

Another AI startup, Deep Agency, allows users to create a virtual photoshoot with synthetic models or an AI version of a real person. Models are worried that AI will take over from fit models who typically try on clothes to assess sizing and silhouettes for designers and manufacturers. 

Increasing numbers of fit models are contacting Sara Ziff’s nonprofit advocacy group, the Model Alliance, to express concerns about companies hiring them for body scans that can be used for product development without their knowledge or compensation.

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Rise of AI Models

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in the fashion industry has been a hot topic in recent years, with both excitement and concern among industry players. On one hand, AI can help brands and designers create more personalized and efficient shopping experiences for consumers. On the other hand, there are worries about the displacement of human labor and the ethical implications of using AI-generated images.

Levi’s recent proposal to test out virtual clothing models generated by AI drew swift backlash from critics, who accused the retailer of trying to inexpensively address issues of representation and potentially pushing professional models out of their jobs. While Levi’s denied any intentions to save costs with the project, concerns about technology displacing human labor are not new and are far from distinct to the fashion industry.

The use of AI models is already expanding in the space, with companies like Lalaland and Deep Agency allowing users to create virtual photoshoots with synthetic or AI versions of real people. However, there are worries that models’ images could be used without their permission via AI, with some complaining that companies are hiring them to conduct body scans that can form the basis for product development without their knowledge or compensation.

According to Sara Ziff, the founder of the Model Alliance, the current law provides inadequate protection for models’ labor rights because it is unclear if they have the right to form unions. To address this issue, Ziff is pushing for the proposed Fashion Workers Act in New York, which would require agencies to provide more information about the extent of the work and the corresponding compensation.

Meanwhile, AI models have become so realistic that many consumers cannot distinguish them from images of humans. Influencer Ashley France, who criticized Levi’s partnership with Lalaland, said that she hopes regulators will step in and impose regulations similar to those for advertising, dietary supplements, and photoshopped images.

Fashion brands and AI design studios have defended their efforts as supplemental, with Lalaland’s founders stating that they created the company to sustainably increase representation in fashion. However, as the use of AI in fashion continues to expand, it is necessary for industry players to address concerns around displacement of human labor, labor protections, and ethical implications.

Photo: Grazia

Opinions expressed by US Reporter contributors are their own.