How Tommy Hilfiger is Using AI to Improve the Design Process

Woman sketching clothing designs

By Tricia McKinnon

The applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in the retail industry are only beginning to be realized. Earlier this year Tommy Hilfiger announced a partnership with IBM and the Fashion Institute of Technology to leverage AI to improve its designs.  The project is called Reimagine Retail and it focused on using AI to identify future industry trends and improve the design process. 

The project highlighted that AI will never replace the design process, instead it will be used as a powerful input that can aid any designer.  IBM’s AI research tools were used to analyze customer sentiment related to each of Tommy Hilfiger’s clothing items and runway images as well as to identify key themes in patterns, silhouettes, colours and styles.  AI enabled the quick analysis of a large database of both text and visual data something that would be difficult or impossible for any designer to do on their own.  Even if it were possible to go through all of that data manually it would be difficult to do so in an objective and precise manner.  For example, questions such as “how did this shirt style perform five seasons ago? What color schemes are trending now? Is this trend close to being over?” and “what was our most popular piece in the last three runway collections?” can now be answered almost instantly with the use of IBM’s AI research tools.  It alleviates the pressure on the designer to find all of these answers so that they can focus on the most important part of their jobs, design.  

“Instead of manually scanning Instagram and Pinterest, we’re pulling insights that brands can use again and again, from massive data pools,” said Chris Palmer, Global Cognitive Offerings Lead at IBM. The AI tools looked at 15,000 images of Tommy Hilfiger product and 600,000 runway images that were publicly available and 100,000 patterns from fabric sites.  According to Avery Baker Tommy Hilfiger’s Chief Brand Officer the project was a “successful integration of fashion, technology and science”.

The benefit of using AI in the design process was underscored by Amy Taehway Eun, a fashion design major at the Fashion Institute of Technology and one of the designers who participated in the project who said: "as a result of this project, I can see that the relationship between AI and designers will be collaborative. Technology will help designers create new and fresh products. In the end, I believe a designer's role will be the same. They will research inspirations, they will design, but they will have better options and a different perspective offered to them by AI technology." 

The use of AI in retail is here to stay with more exciting uses up ahead.


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Tricia McKinnonTrends