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AI-generated models could bring more diversity to the industry – or leave it with less

AI-generated models could bring more diversity to the industry – or leave it with less


CHICAGO (AP) London model Alexsandrah has a twin, but not in the way you might expect: Her counterpart is made of pixels rather than flesh and blood.

The virtual twin was generated by artificial intelligence and previously appeared as a replacement for the real Alexsandrah in a photo session. Alexsandrah, who goes by her first name professionally, in turn receives credit and compensation each time the AI ​​version of herself is used as a human model.

Alexsandrah says she and her alter ego mirror each other down to their baby hairs. And it's yet another example of how AI is transforming creative industries and the way humans may or may not be compensated.

Proponents say the growing use of AI in fashion modeling highlights diversity in all shapes and sizes, allowing consumers to make more tailored purchasing decisions, reducing fashion waste from product returns. And digital modeling saves companies money and creates opportunities for people who want to work with this technology.

But critics worry that digital models could push human models and other professionals like makeup artists and photographers out of work. Unsuspecting consumers could also be fooled into believing that AI models are real, and companies could take credit for meeting their diversity commitments without employing real humans.

Fashion is exclusive, with limited opportunities for people of color to break in, said Sara Ziff, a former model and founder of Model Alliance, a nonprofit aimed at advancing workers' rights in the industry. of fashion. I believe the use of AI to distort racial representation and marginalize actual models of color reveals this troubling gap between the industry's stated intentions and its actual actions.

Women of color in particular have long faced with higher barriers to entry in modeling and AI could disrupt some of the gains made. Data suggests that women are more likely to work in occupations where technology could be applied and that they are more at risk of displacement than men.

In March 2023, iconic denim brand Levi Strauss & Co. announced that it would test AI-generated designs produced by Amsterdam-based company to add a wider range of body types and of underrepresented demographics on its website. But after receiving widespread backlash, Levi clarified that he is not backing down from plans for live photo shoots, the use of live models, or his commitment to working with diverse models.

We do not view this (AI) pilot as a means to advance diversity or as a substitute for the actual steps that need to be taken to achieve our diversity, equity and inclusion goals and it does not “shouldn't have been presented as such,” Levi said in his statement at the time.

The company said last month that it had no plans to expand the AI ​​program.

The Associated Press contacted several other retailers to ask if they were using AI mannequins. Target, Kohls and fast-fashion giant Shein declined to comment; Temu did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, spokespeople for Nieman Marcus, H&M, Walmart and Macys said their respective companies do not use AI models, although Walmart clarified that suppliers may have a different approach to photography than 'they offer for their products, but we do not have this information.

Nonetheless, companies that generate AI models are finding demand for the technology, including, which was co-founded by Michael Musandu after feeling frustrated by the lack of clothing models that looked like him.

A model does not represent everyone who actually buys and buys a product, he said. As a person of color, I have felt this painfully myself.

Musandu says his product is meant to complement traditional photoshoots, not replace them. Instead of seeing just one style, shoppers could see nine to 12 designs using different sized filters, enriching their shopping experience and helping to reduce product returns and fashion waste.

The technology actually creates new jobs, since pays humans to train its algorithms, Musandu said.

And if brands are serious about their inclusion efforts, they will continue to hire these models of color, he added.

London-based black model Alexsandrah says her digital counterpart has helped her stand out in the fashion industry. In fact, the real Alexsandrah even replaced a black computer-generated model named Shudu, created by Cameron Wilson, a former fashion photographer turned CEO of The Diigitals, a UK-based digital modeling agency.

Wilson, who is white and uses their he/she pronouns, conceived Shudu in 2017, featured on Instagram as the world's first digital model. But critics at the time accused Wilson of cultural appropriation and digital blackface.

Wilson took the experience as a lesson and transformed The Digitals to ensure that Shudu, who was reserved by Louis Vuitton And BMW did not take away opportunities but rather opened up possibilities for women of color. Alexsandrah, for example, modeled in person as Shudu for Vogue Australiaand the writer Ama Badu invented the story of Shudu and portrays his voice for interviews.

Alexsandrah said she was extremely proud of her work with The Diigitals, which created its own AI twin: It's something that even when we're no longer here, future generations can look back and say, ” They are the pioneers.

But for Yve Edmond, a New York-based model who works with major retailers to check the fit of clothes before selling them to consumers, the rise of AI in modeling seems more insidious.

Edmond worries that modeling agencies and companies are taking advantage of models, who are typically independent contractors with few labor protections in the United States, by using their photos to train AI systems without their consent or compensation.

She described an incident in which a client asked to photograph Edmond moving his arms, crouching and walking for research purposes. Edmond refused and later felt cheated. Her modeling agency told her she was being booked for a fitting, not to build an avatar.

This is a complete violation, she said. It was really disappointing for me.

But in the absence of regulation on AI, it is up to companies to be transparent and ethical in deploying AI technology. And Ziff, the founder of Model Alliance, likens the current lack of legal protections for fashion workers to the Wild West.

That's why the Model Alliance is pushing for legislation like that being considered in New York State, in which a provision of Fashion Workers Act would require collectives and brands to obtain clear written consent from models to create or use a digital replica of the model; specify the amount and duration of compensation, and prohibit modifying or manipulating digital replica models without consent.

Alexsandrah says that with ethical use and proper legal regulations, AI could open doors for more models of color like her. She has let her customers know that she has an AI replica and she routes all inquiries about its use through Wilson, who she describes as someone I know, someone I love, someone I trust. I trust and who is my friend. Wilson says they make sure any compensation for Alexsandrah's AI is comparable to what she would earn in person.

Edmond, however, is more of a purist: we have this amazing Earth that we live on. And you have a person of all shades, of all sizes, of all sizes. Why not find this person and compensate them?


Associated Press writers Anne DInnocenzio and Haleluya Hadero contributed to this story from New York.


Associated Press Women in the Workforce and State Government Coverage receives financial support from Pivotal Ventures. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP standards for working with philanthropies, a list of supporters and funded coverage areas at




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