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IBM Is Working with FIT to Teach AI to Fashion Students

By Henry Kronk
April 27, 2019

Artificial Intelligence technology today is finding uses across industries and sectors—even fashion. On April 23, IBM announced a new collaboration with the Fashion Institute of Technology’s (FIT) Design and Technology Lab (DTech Lab) in which it will school future fashion professionals in AI.

AI has just recently emerged in the fashion industry. In 2018, Tommy Hilfiger contracted with IBM and the DTech Lab on “Reimagine Retail.” For the initiative, IBM developed AI for Fashion, a suite of APIs designed for fashion retail.

IBM Collaborates with FIT … Again

“Reimagine Retail was a powerful example of what happens when fashion partners with a global tech leader to advance challenging innovations,” said Michael Ferraro, director of the FIT/Infor DTech Lab, in a news release. “Embedding emerging technology into our lab where faculty and students are solving industry problems is the next step in our evolving relationship with IBM. We’re leveraging the fresh perspectives and new ideas of talented creative students in an agile research environment.”

With “Reimagine Retail” FIT students originally analyzed a huge body of Tommy Hilfiger’s work—15,000 product images, 600,000 publicly available runway images, and 100,000 fabric patterns. IBMs APIs were then able to deliver information like which cuts, styles, and patterns are commonly matched and which are not.

As Ferraro told Forbes in January, “The machine learning analysis gave us insights about the Tommy Hilfiger colors, silhouettes and prints that we couldn’t begin to consume or understand with the human mind. This enabled the FIT Fashion Design students to take their inspiration from Americana or popular fashion trends and marry that with the ‘DNA’, if you will, of the Tommy Hilfiger brand across those dimensions to create wholly new design concepts.”

“Reimagine Retail” served as a proof-of-concept. FIT is now signing on to make AI for Fashion a component of their curriculum. Going forward, FIT students working out of the DTech Lab will be trained to use IBM’s fashion APIs and apply them to their own projects. FIT faculty are also currently exploring ways to incorporate AI for Fashion into their existing STEM curricula.

Incorporating IBM’s AI for Fashion Into the Curriculum

What’s more, FIT researchers and students also plan to collaborate with IBM’s R & D team going forward to tackle some major challenges in the industry. According to the release, “Specific examples may include identifying whether or not children’s products contain lead or other harmful materials, recognizing silhouettes in pattern and texture, or using AI tools to identify and develop new approaches to fabric combinations.”

“FIT is an educational force that continues to innovate and ensure the future of the creative industries, including fashion,” said Dr. Joyce F. Brown, president of FIT, in a release. “We are proud to partner with IBM. Together we can look forward to many breakthroughs in resolving the challenges of today and tomorrow.”

“After a successful IBM-FIT project for Tommy Hilfiger last year, formalizing our relationship with FIT is a natural next step to accelerate our development of AI solutions for the fashion industry,” said  Luq Niazi, IBM’s Global Consumer Industry Managing Director, according to the release.

FIT’s DTech Lab launched in the summer of 2017 and has since played host to 19 projects involving 76 students and 21 faculty members. “I learned how interesting and rewarding it is to try new things,” said Amber Saca, an FIT Packaging Design student, according to the release. “Working with the Lab gave me the confidence to design on a wide range of subjects that are outside of my comfort zone.”

Featured Image: FancyCrave, Unsplash.