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Some of the best-known applications for artificial intelligence, or AI, range from autonomous vehicles to finance to medical diagnosis. But AI is rapidly expanding to every sector of the economy, including fashion. For a growing number of fashion companies, AI is already transforming the methods used to predict trends, create products and interact with suppliers and customers. Not surprisingly, AI advances raise unique new legal questions, chiefly in the realm of intellectual property and privacy.

What is AI?

Broadly defined, AI is computer technology that aims to simulate intelligent human behavior, or to perform cognitive tasks that ordinarily require human intelligence. The development of “strong AI” attempts to replicate human reasoning as closely as possible or even to create sentient machines (think Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey), while “weak AI” focuses on performing specific tasks that require capabilities similar to human cognition (think customer service chatbots that can answer a limited range of questions). Branches of AI include “machine learning” and “deep learning,” which use algorithms to parse huge volumes of data to draw inferences and make predictions.

AI in the Fashion Industry

AI’s ability to gain insights from vast amounts of data has many practical applications in the fashion industry. In an era of “fast fashion” and online influencers, designers, suppliers and retailers are under constant pressure to predict what consumers want and make it available almost instantaneously. Trends change within weeks or even days, not just a few times a year. While companies have access to large volumes of data about both individual consumers and entire markets, from sales figures to social media feeds to customer product reviews, human beings can’t process all this data quickly enough for it to be useful, and their conclusions are inevitably influenced by their own biases and preferences.

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