Trends/January 9, 2024

Why Top Brands Are Investing in AI Fashion Photography (And You Should Too)

Alfred

Alfred

Co-founder

A collection of AI fashion photos

Here are the five reasons top brands such as Sheep Inc., Casablanca, and Adidas are using AI fashion photography for their marketing.

Since we launched Pebblely for AI product photography a year ago, countless people have requested to put their brands' clothes on AI-generated models (which we started). Instead of doing traditional fashion photo shoots, brands want to use generative AI.

Well, don’t just listen to me. Even McKinsey had a similar finding:

“73 percent of fashion executives said generative AI will be a priority for their businesses in 2024.”

McKinsey’s State of Fashion 2024 report

Young brands (e.g. Sheep Inc.) and established brands (e.g. Casablanca) alike are already investing in AI fashion photography. Why? I spoke to our customers and industry experts to investigate why fashion brands are looking into AI photography and how they are using it.

Here’s what I found:

  1. Cut costs (and time)
  2. Have more control
  3. Tell better stories
  4. Join cultural conversations
  5. Increase diversity and conversion

1. Cut costs (and time)

Let’s talk about the most obvious reason first.

Traditional fashion photo shoots are expensive. You have to hire photographers, models, makeup artists, stylists, and even a production crew. You have to rent a studio or fly to suitable locations. From planning to the actual shoot to post-production, a shoot can take several months. Time is money. And there’s no guarantee the shoot would turn out great.

While the cost will depend on many factors, such as the crew, location, and number of photos, a typical fashion photo shoot will minimally cost a few thousand dollars. An in-house fashion designer told me that usually at least 20% of a marketing team’s budget is reserved for such photography. That’s a lot.

With AI fashion photography, you can put your clothes on AI fashion models without the traditional expenses. Edzard van der Wyck, founder of luxury knitwear brand Sheep Inc., revealed that “the whole process [AI fashion shoot] only costs about £85 per image.” He also shared that “while it would typically require about two months to plan and execute a campaign shoot, it took about a week from start to finish using AI.”

AI fashion photos by Sheep Inc.

In McKinsey’s State of Fashion 2024 report, Casablanca creative director Charaf Tajer also “acknowledged efficiency gains [of their AI photo shoot] as a result of bypassing all the planning and costs of in-person photo shoots, among other benefits.”

At Pebblely, we are making AI fashion photography even cheaper and faster. Pebblely Fashion costs as low as $0.03 per on-model photo. And each photo takes about 20 seconds to generate.

A comparison between Sheep Inc. and Pebblely's AI fashion photos

2. Have more control

Bringing a concept to life is hard. First, you have to come up with the ideas, then communicate them to the crew of photographers, models, location scouts, and so on—and then actually execute the photo shoot. And because redoing a shoot might not be feasible, you have to make do with whatever you have taken.

On the other hand, AI gives you the creative control and flexibility.

“With generative AI, Sheep Inc. can more easily produce creative content that it can test and iterate on based on what’s resonating with its community.”

— Edzard van der Wyck in The Complete Playbook for Generative AI in Fashion by Business of Fashion

We also heard this from Pebblely customers. For example, a business owner hired seven photographers and still couldn’t get the visual imagery she envisioned. But with Pebblely, she could get the styles and colors she had in mind.

Another interesting example is from Casablanca. The brand usually avoids digital photography for its campaign and uses film to capture its brand’s retro aesthetic (which is obvious if you take a quick look at its website or Instagram). Yet, they opted to use AI images for its Spring/Summer 2023 collection to bring to life the creative direction of UFOs, space, cowboys, the desert, and nature.

casablanca.jpg

Perhaps AI allowed them to achieve results that are harder to get with digital photography?

3. Tell better stories

Storytelling. World building. Or simply furthering a brand narrative.

Building a brand is all about the stories we tell. Brands tell stories to create the world they envision (and to sell products from this world). The stories come in the form of images, videos, copy, colors, and more.

At a campaign level, we have Casablanca, which used AI-generated images to promote its “Futuro Optimisto” collection. AI allowed them to achieve the retro-futurist aesthetic. The combination of a “retro” brand and “futuristic” artificial-intelligence images matches the “Futuro Optimisto” concept perfectly.

Perfecto.

At a brand level, Sheep Inc. used the AI campaign to reinforce its commitment to sustainability. Not only are its t-shirts carbon-negative, but even its campaign is environmentally- and animal-friendly. The team didn’t have to travel and create carbon emissions nor bring in actual sheep for the shoot.

Similarly, REVOLVE created the world’s first AI-generated billboard campaign to emphasize its ability to create innovative marketing initiatives with the latest technology. They even wrote a press release to highlight it.

Image from Fashion Network
Image from Fashion Network

4. Join cultural conversations

Other brands are more opportunistic.

Trends come and go. Brands eagerly jump onto the latest “in thing” to be part of the cultural conversation—before it’s too late. AR. NFT. AI.

Brands like Moncler, Adidas, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton have all fully embraced these technological waves to engage their audiences. For instance, Moncler and Adidas teamed up for their The Art of Explorers campaign, which included both AI-generated explorers and an NFT.

moncler-adidas.png

Gucci commissioned 21 AI-generated artworks, which were sold as NFTs. Louis Vuitton commissioned David King Reuben to create a portfolio of looks for its Spring/Summer 2023 collection with only AI images.

AI images from Campaign Asia and Cultured
Images from Campaign Asia and Cultured

5. Increase diversity and conversion

Finally, brands such as Levi’s are using AI-generated models to increase the diversity of models on their websites, which will improve the shopping experience and increase conversions.

Online shoppers want to see clothes worn by various models—body sizes and ethnicities—since they cannot physically try the clothes. We have also heard from brands that sell to different regions wanting to “localize” their on-model photos. That makes sense. As a Chinese, I would be more inclined to purchase clothes featured on Chinese models—people who look like me—than on Western models.

But according to Levi’s, it’s physically impossible to take photos of all their products on all possible types of models.

AI unlocks that.

For example, you can turn a single on-model photo into multiple photos with different models and backgrounds (with a technique called model swap).

Images to demonstrate model swapping
Images to demonstrate model swapping

How to incrementally adopt AI fashion photography

One important thing to note: As much as AI fashion photography has many benefits, you don’t have to replace all your traditional photo shoots immediately.

Of course, unless you want to.

Sheep Inc. is the only high-end company in my research that used AI photos for their entire website. Most luxury brands tested AI photos for a campaign or collection first. Likewise, Levi’s is using AI-generated models on top of live photo shoots. Understandably, big brands have to consider potential reputation risks, like what Levi’s went through.

On the other hand, small-to-medium brands can afford to move faster and embrace the technology quicker to reduce costs, tell better stories, and convert more customers. If you are interested in using AI fashion photography, give Pebblely Fashion a try! We would love to hear any feedback you have.

P.S. We are also looking to partner with fashion brands—big or small—to improve our AI and help you generate better images. If you are interested, feel free to reach out.

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