ChatGPT and Chinese fashion companies – a new field of competition – WWD

Global technological development trends have developed somewhat unexpectedly. Last year the frenzy was focused on the Metaverse, but this year the focus is on AI-generated content, represented by ChatGPT.

Can the Chinese fashion industry withstand the pressure of this disruptive technological change?

The factors impacting the global economy – including the COVID-19 epidemic, inflation, interest rate hikes and regional conflicts – appear to be abating, leaving room for yet another new race fueled by the technological disruption in the industry.

Recently, a series of earnings forecasts for 2022 showed that the overall performance of Chinese apparel companies saw a significant decline. As of press time, 23 of the 39 listed companies in the apparel sector reported losses, including Metersbonwe, which is expected to lose more than 700 million yuan, or $101 million, in fiscal 2022, in addition to 400 million yuan $57.9 million loss last year . Peace Bird’s net income is expected to fall 71 percent year-over-year. Overall, the apparel sector was challenged in 2022, with a less-than-expected increase in sales and profits on the back of discounts.

The good news is that consumption recovered in the first quarter of 2023 according to the latest data. Since January, sales have continued to improve along with a recovery in offline customer traffic. Coupled with better inventories and less discount pressure, the market expects a “Davis double-killing effect” in which earnings per share will rise as the price-to-earnings ratio remains low. At this point, entrepreneurs often have a strong sense of risk, but their fear is also mixed with a strong sense of excitement generated by the potential business opportunity. They are anxious to “regain the time of the lost three years”.

ChatGPT and AIGC are in full swing in the market. On the one hand, Chinese tech companies started to increase their investments in AI development, represented by Baidu’s launch of Ernie Bot, while on the other hand, media platforms in China also tried to access the AI ​​language model. At the same time, the fashion industry is increasingly relying on AI. With political support and industry investment, the early starters among fashion tech companies are expected to get on the development fast track.

The algorithm age is coming, if it isn’t already. If AIGC lands in text, audio, video/live, gaming and other industries, what impact will it have on the fashion industry?

Has fashion tech trend changed as attention shifted from the metaverse to AI?

Like Meta and Microsoft, tech companies in China are also gradually implementing the strategy of “Shifting from Meta to AI”, which is affecting their workforce. In February, PICO, Byte Dance’s virtual reality brand, cut 15 percent of its workforce, or 300 employees, while Tencent eliminated all of its super XR (extended reality) positions.

In an interview with WWD, a spokesman for Baidu, the search engine giant that previously launched the metaverse platform Xirang, said, “While we remain optimistic about the metaverse, it’s important to acknowledge the reality that what it offers, still in its ‘infancy.'” At the same time, another sister division of Baidu’s non-Xirang team will complete internal testing of an AI product similar to ChatGPT in March.[to] face this ‘generational shift in the quest’ with an attitude of the highest preparedness.”

While wearable AR/VR devices are entering a period of calming down, the Metaverse’s tide hasn’t receded, even sweeping through offline retail spaces. When the episode of “Wind from the Luoyang” adapted by iQiyi based on Ma Boyong’s novel aired, it caused a frenzy of viewers. And the VR experience works on the basis of this IP production of the same name, which was launched offline after a year of preparation. From “secret room”, “live performance” to VR experience, it became the world’s first omnisensory interdimensional interactive VR entertainment project, and created a “Tang Dynasty Room” in Shanghai’s popular shopping district, Shanghai Tomorrow Square.

The world’s first omnisensory interdimensional interactive VR entertainment project “Wind from the Luoyang”. courtesy photo.

In retail complexes meeting a highly immersive and interactive VR experience, the marketing narrative of future fashion retail is bound to change.

But beyond retail, can AIGC also become a major force in fashion design?

While AR/VR represents the evolution of human-computer interaction from two dimensions to three dimensions, AIGC marks the potential for disruptive changes in productivity. Both are key technologies that make up the development of metaverse.

The AI ​​that integrates labour, capital and technology creates new industries. For example, when intelligence and digitization were applied to virtual idols, there were virtual people who could think. As AI invaded medium and large garment factories, it drew on the supply chain management experience and lean production concepts of big brands and factories to implement factory-wide resource allocation and optimize production and scheduling under the constraints of delivery time and manpower calculate skills, equipment, processes, teams, etc. This enabled the implementation of the “small order with shorter turnaround time” production mode, which is faster than the traditional garment manufacturing cycle, and enabled more “destocking”.

Now, AI is launching a new wave of change in China’s fashion industry.

The technology is able to not only mimic, but also “tap into” the ability of process engineers to analyze designs, the ability of assembly line managers to assign processes, the ability to calculate materials and organize secondary processes in the cutting room. Source for design ideas with AIGC technology. Therefore, ChatGPT is attracting much more attention from fashion designers than last year’s AI-generated paintings, which sparked debate between AI and artists on social media platforms.

Zhao Shijian (Tina Zhao), mentor at Tongji University’s JALAB Lab and co-founder of UNI’s jewelry designer platform, uses AI technology to help brainstorm the steps needed to put together collages. She believes that some AI ergonomic calculations are inevitably accurate, making AI more suited to functional and comfortable designs than cutting-edge fashion.

Yu Yimeng, an interdisciplinary fashion designer and fashion teacher at Central Academy of Fine Arts, already in 2021, guided her students to participate in AI training camp DeeCamp, tried “AI dialogue-based clothing design” and teamed up to complete an innovative project called Project “AICL” (Artificial Intelligence Clothing Lab). The final conceptual application step is completed with an app that offers users the ability to design clothing using AI dialog-generated patterns. The AI-generated and human-selected patterns are then applied to a pre-defined resource library and shipped to the factory for production, initiating an exploration of the “AI + human” working model in apparel design. She has since introduced AI technology as a design tool to the courses she teaches.

Observers from Chinese academia and the fashion industry also allude to economist Zhu Jiaming’s view: Applications like ChatGPT will coerce and coerce people to evolve their thought processes. In today’s world where information is developing and exploding exponentially, it is difficult for people to understand and process large amounts of information in a limited lifetime. So the greatest contribution of AI will be to help humans process large amounts of information.

Although the crowded cinemas and scenic spots during the Chinese New Year in China showed people’s desire to return to normal life, the industry’s recovery will not happen overnight. Amid greater uncertainty, strengthening consumer confidence remains an issue. At this point, it is assumed that AIGC, as a representative of AI technology, will bring more benefit than harm in the long term. Finally, the consumer rebound has shown that differentiation and personalization are becoming increasingly important, making the marketing narrative and product production more affordable with technical skills.

The Metaverse, predicted to be possibly the ultimate social form of the future, requires a long-term perspective and will be far more difficult than AIGC. Furthermore, Metaverse and AIGC are not two separate and exclusive technologies. Compared to last year’s popular Metaverse, Chinese fashion brands are already seeing the benefits of AIGC in solving productivity problems.

Although the global wave of layoffs has not yet arrived in China, the ability of AI to summarize, create and support will allow companies to save a lot of labor costs and expand user creativity. This is a golden window for fashion companies and practitioners to use AI technology to empower “human” creativity, explore “human” potential, and enhance core competency competitiveness.

Editor’s Note: China Insight is a recurring feature of WWD’s sister publication, WWD China, which examines key trends in the Chinese market. ChatGPT and Chinese fashion companies – a new field of competition – WWD

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