AI’s Impact on Pattern Design, Trend Forecasting and Sustainability
Written by Özgecan Üstgül, founder & CEO of AI-driven pattern design tool Myth AI
It’s well known that in the fashion industry, trends drive decisions. But perhaps a lesser known fact is that the accuracy of trend forecasting – whether it’s colour palettes, pattern designs or fabric choices – and the efficiency of the design process carry significant implications – not just for style or the bottom line, but for sustainability.
Sadly, the sustainability issues within the fashion industry continue to be huge; and fabric’s part to play, significant. It’s a £1.65 trillion global industry that’s accountable for at least 4% of worldwide emissions, of which 70% come from upstream activities including raw material production, fabric preparation and processing. Couple this with the 92 million tonnes of fabric that’s discarded annually and the fact that fashion is an industry notoriously rife with greenwashing, and it’s clear a change is very much needed.
Thankfully, expectations for sustainability in the world of fashion are on the up, particularly among consumers. While the most important thing about clothes may still be how they make us look and feel, what a brand stands for – whether it’s around environmental practices, social responsibility or responsible retailing – is becoming an increasingly major consideration.
This attitude shift among consumers is in turn pushing the industry to adopt more sustainable and ethical practices throughout the supply chain; a change I wholeheartedly welcome after coming up against various roadblocks when establishing sustainability-led Turkish clothing brand, Women&Women.
With my mother’s expertise in textiles and patterns, my sister’s talents in 3D design and fashion, and my business development skills, we launched Women&Women with the goal of being as ethical and sustainable as possible.
While certain efforts to achieve this goal were certainly doable – such as sourcing local, eco-friendly and sustainable materials, optimising pattern layouts to minimise fabric waste during production, and focusing on designing high-quality, durable products that last longer – I soon came up against issues. Designing patterns and keeping up with fashion trends, colours, and themes for every collection was simply not sustainable – nor was it a particularly speedy or efficient process when having to heavily rely on manual work.
I realised that in order to really reduce waste, save costs, and provide a competitive edge in the industry, accurate pattern and colour forecasts and streamlining the design process were also key – which got me thinking ‘why can’t technology be harnessed to revolutionise design production?’
In fact, to put a real dent in the fashion industry’s sustainability problem, I felt we needed to combine these non-tech strategies with technology-driven solutions.
As is the case across almost every industry, AI has the power to revolutionise design and production processes in the fashion and textile industries, not only enhancing sustainability, but efficiency and creativity too. This realisation led me to not only develop an AI-powered tool to address the issues I was facing in my own line, but also harness existing AI tools to support a number of other functions, including:
- Aiding pattern design and colour forecasting: AI-driven pattern design tools can help with streamlining the design of new and unique patterns, textures, and motifs for fabrics. It can do this from visual or text prompts and can also analyse vast amounts of data, including historical fashion trends, social media posts, and catwalk images to forecast patterns and colours that are likely to be popular in upcoming seasons. This not only reduces the risk of producing unsellable inventory, minimising waste and overproduction, but also speeds up the design process, taking the process down from days – and sometimes weeks – to seconds.
- Streamlining the fabric sample selection process: AI can assist designers in choosing the most suitable fabric samples by simulating the look and feel of different fabrics in virtual environments. This not only helps reduce the need for physical fabric samples, saving resources and reducing waste, but means designers can experiment with different materials and patterns digitally, making more informed decisions before committing to physically producing garments.
- Allowing customisation to fit 3D visual models: AI-driven 3D modelling and customisation tools enable designers to adapt and customise patterns to fit specific 3D visual models of various body shapes and sizes. This eliminates the need for physical prototypes and fittings, streamlining the design process and reducing material waste. It also contributes to greater inclusivity and personalisation in fashion, as designs can be tailored to individual customer preferences.
- Enhancing precision in design choices: Designers can use AI tools to assess the sustainability of their design choices, including the carbon footprint, water usage, and other environmental factors, which can help them make more informed decisions to reduce the industry’s overall environmental footprint. AI-driven computer vision systems can also inspect printed patterns for defects, ensuring consistent quality in mass production.
Why the human touch is so vital
From colour forecasting – where machine learning extracts palettes from catwalk images – to pattern generators – streamlining design processes and reducing reliance on physical prototypes and samples – AI’s played a vital role in Women&Women, and its potential to empower the rest of the industry’s designers and trend forecasters is clear. However, the role of human experts in designing and interpreting and curating trends cannot be overstated.
Fashion is an art form deeply rooted in culture, emotion, and human expression. AI, as a tool, can aid and augment that creative process – streamlining certain aspects of design and production. But it cannot replace the creative vision, cultural understanding, and emotional connection that human experts bring to the fashion industry.
By harnessing the strengths of both AI and human expertise, the fashion industry can evolve to become far more sustainable, all while staying in tune with the ever-changing cultural and political vibes of our world.
Intro image by Natalie Dupin – Pexels.com