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Newfound Future

The intersection of luxury fashion and AI comes to a head on our October cover but what does an AI-powered future really mean for a continent brimming with creative ingenuity and boundless economic potential?

By Faeeza Khan

Imagine a day in the life of an affluent woman in the near future. Amazon Alexa wakes her at the optimal time in her sleep cycle to start the day with exercise, monitoring vitals on her Fitbit. A grocery drone touches down just in time for coffee, delivering the milk her fridge ordered. She has a great meeting with her Japanese client as AI translates their conversation in real-time. That afternoon, another AI recommends three cocktail dresses for an upcoming event, and she orders her favourite. At dinnertime, her fridge has ordered the groceries needed for their family meal. Finally, when reading her child a bedtime story, an AI tailors one to the lesson she’d like to teach. This is the world of artificial intelligence that we are heading towards.

AI can be defined as the ability of machines to perform tasks that are typically associated with human intelligence, and we have merely scratched the surface of its full potential. It’s already integrated into our daily lives with virtual assistants like Siri, streaming services like Netflix and smart home devices such as Google Nest. It has made waves in the creative industry ever since ChatGPT launched, although opinion remains divided among the creative community about its full impact. Some are even taking legal action against the alleged copyright infringements that have occurred. Three visual artists in San Francisco, for example, filed a case against Stability AI, and its text-to- image generator, Stable Diffusion, for violating the rights of artists by ingesting troves of digital images and then producing derivative works that compete against the originals. The writer’s strike in the US is another such example. It is stillunclear where AI art fits in today’s legal landscape, and the courts are busy developing frameworks for this uncharted  territory. There are other creatives, like local AI photographer Thekiso Mokhele, who have decided to embrace the technology. Thekiso is telling stories that traverse the boundaries of human imagination using AI images. His evocative depictions of the recent Bree Street gas explosion in the Johannesburg CBD captured the attention of many South Africans. “I was inspired by the turmoil and chaos that was happening at the time. I’m from Johannesburg and I lived near the location of the explosion. I wanted to feel relief as my art is therapy to me, so I created this series to spread awareness and to have a therapeutic release.

The reaction from the public was mixed. Most people were quite engaged. It broadened their minds about AI photography and the possibilities that it holds,” he says. Regarding his process in creating the world for the cover, Thekiso said that exhaustive research about the castles of Gondar. He tried to find as many references about the culture as possible in order to implement it into the image-creation process. In terms of originality, as there are no substantial images of the castles, Thekiso had to make sure that he created an image that embodies what the research entailed. It had to have an African motif and feel as if it was in Ethiopia – not a castle in Scotland. Like Thekiso, AI is giving storytellers access to a previously unavailable suite of tools, allowing them new ways to digitally express their creative ideas. While the line between the human artist and the machine is blurry, the former is in the driver’s seat and the generation of the final artwork requires skilful prompting as well as numerous edits. As Thekiso says, “AI is helpful in telling my stories because it has a vast amount of information, similar to search engines such as Google or reference materials like the Bible. It gave us an in-depth understanding of what Gondar could have been and enough research to get an adequate idea of what it looked like.”

AI photographer Thekiso Mokhele recreated the Castles of Gondar for our October cover using AI programme MidJourney

According to a recent PwC report, AI could expand Africa’s economy by $1.5 trillion by 2030. AI applications can enhance agricultural productivity by providing data-driven insights for African farmers, helping with crop and water-resource management and pest control, thereby having a positive economic impact for the continent. In healthcare, telemedicine, AI-based diagnostics and predictive analytics can enhance healthcare access and delivery, leading to growth in this sector. As AI technology advances, we will continue to see more cases emerge in the luxury sector. French luxury group Kering – which owns Gucci, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Yves Saint Laurent, Creed, Puma and Alexander McQueen – launched a platform in May called KNXT that uses an AI-powered personal shopper named Madeline, powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT. While you are shopping online, your customer data – including body measurements, browsing history, social media activity, customer reviews, search queries and past-purchase behaviour – will all be analysed by the AI to provide hyper-personalised product suggestions. Think of it like a personal shopper at every e-commerce store you visit. Visual search technology is set to advance beyond what Google Image search is today and will enable customers to find fashion items by uploading images or taking photos of clothing they like. AI will then identify similar products in retailers’ catalogues. Imagine Shazam, but for clothing. Fast forward even further into the future, and AI-powered virtual try-on solutions will significantly improve, allowing customers to virtually try on clothing. This will also help customers find the right size and fit by analysing body measurements and past purchases, reducing the likelihood of returns.

French luxury group Kering launched a platform in May called KNXT that uses an AI-powered personal shopper named Madeline, powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT

In the luxury automobile industry, AI-powered self-driving cars are a major disruption, with m companies like Tesla and Waymo at the forefront of this technology. AI enables vehicles to connect to the internet and communicate with other vehicles, traffic infrastructure and cloud-based services. This connectivity enhances navigation and provides real-time traffic updates. While connected technology can unlock new in-vehicle capabilities, these advances are, however, accompanied by increasing cybersecurity threats. In the fine-jewellery sector, AI image recognition technology helps identify counterfeit jewellery items, protecting the consumers from purchasing fake products. And in travel, customised itineraries based on preferences, time constraints and budgets can be generated by AI, offering a seamless and personalised experience. It can also enhance security at airports and hotels through facial recognition technology, baggage screening and predictive-threat assessment, improving safety for travellers.

Waymo is at the forefront of self-driving car technology

We mustn’t, however, lose sight of the important questions that AI raises around privacy and bias. Some of the questions to ask include: What data is being collected by the AI system? How long will the data be retained? How will it be used? Has the AI system been thoroughly tested for bias? Does the AI system share data with third parties? It’s essential to strike a balance

between the benefits of AI, the individual’s right to privacy and the inherent bias within these systems. AI has already brought us many benefits, and it is exciting to see what new developments emerge as the years progress.

LUXURY LIVING:

Three AI-backed apps to download now

Agent Zero

Developed by two South Africans, this AI app writes your emails. Simply voice record your mail, choose your conversational style, and the AI generates the email for you.

Luxury Escapes

This app offers curated and exclusive travel deals on luxury hotels, resorts, villas and more from all around the world.

Mytheresa

Here you’ll find the finest edit of more than 200 luxury fashion brands, including Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga.

Faeeza Khan is a researcher and trend spotter at Flux Trends

Faeeza Khan

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