The Future of Fashion Styling is Here, and the Machines Have Won

Full disclosure: I mention several companies, two of which are former employers of mine, Stitch Fix and Nordstrom Inc. I was employed by Stitch Fix during the summer of 2016. I worked for Nordstrom in Alaska, Colorado, and Texas, from 2012-2017.

Employees love parties: Stitch Fix rented a party bus for a team outing to a minor league baseball game (2016); Nordstrom brought the SXSW party to their Barton Creek location (2017).

Reader, today I was surprised by the following job posting:

Need a TLDR? A client of Aston Carter’s is contracting out the role of Fashion Specialist, to “curate fashion data to drive machine learning and computer vision development”.

I’ll start out by saying I’m quite curious as to the identify of the client. From the recruiter’s listing I was later e-mailed, it’s a top 3 e-commerce Fortune 500 company based in Seattle (the contractor role pays $22/hr if you’re interested in applying at careers.astoncarter.com; search “Fashion Stylist Remote”). I’m not a big fan of 6-month contract roles, but I’ll save that spiel for another post.

My money’s on that the client is Amazon because: (1. Nordstrom recently ended Trunk Club, the at-home try-on service that was purchased by the omnichannel for $350 million in 2014,  and (2. there have been leaks from Stitch Fix that have inadvertently informed the public on how the Stitch Fix stylists, some of which seem to be disgruntled from the content of other leaks, rely heavily on their data scientists’ algorithms in order to curate the subscription boxes, (3. I can’t imagine the Seattle-based companies Boeing or Microsoft suddenly taking an interest in clothing styles, and (4. the above job description mentions Alexa, Amazon’s voice AI.

RIP Nordstrom Trunk Club (2014-2022). Trunk Club originally began as a men’s clothing subscription service in 2009.

Side note: I’ve heard from a number of indie wardrobe stylists that algorithm-fed stylists tend to burn out when attempting to make a go of fashion styling on their own because, Reader, dressing a human being that constantly interacts with you, whether it’s in person, through email, or over a video call, is completely different than dressing a user profile with what an algorithm feeds you from a limited apparel inventory.

Now, my favorite thing about wardrobe styling, which I dabbled in from time-to-time when I worked in the fashion industry from 2008-2017, is the human connection & interaction. I love putting together looks, aka outfits, whether they’re made up of pieces found through thrifting, created by upcycling, or purchased brand new at a brick-and-mortar, and I love inspiring confidence within people through those looks.

Seeing an AI takeover of a creative field where tactility & ingenuity are key components isn’t my cup of tea. I may be thinking into the distant future here, but at a certain point, the machines will learn to recognize & curate the different color, cut, fit, length, pattern, silhouette, and textile trends of the garment industry into a flawless ‘fit better than any fashion stylist in the Fashion District. Where will the style-obsessed creatives who aren’t designers find work after AI takes over? (And when will AI move on to taking over design work?) We can’t all become fashion history professors & garment curators in museums; there aren’t enough jobs in those fields as it is! If AI begins to decide what’s trendy & what’s selling on a global scale, fashion styling by humans won’t just cease to exist at a retail seller-to-customer level, it’ll cease to exist in print, movies, and any other fashion-centric haven, as AI will work its perfectly-designed magic way into those creative spaces as well.

So, Reader, if you subscribe to a try-on fashion service like Stitch Fitch, AI is already doing the heavy lifting. What do you think about the possibility of AI dictating the overall design and product features of the clothing you wear? And if you aren’t a try-on subscriber, what do you think about a worldwide e-commerce conglomerate teaching machines about garment designs & trends to sell items?

A week or so after Stitch Fix & I parted ways, I was a designer assistant & dresser at Austin PRIDE’s WERK Fashion Show. Lance Bass, the show’s gracious host & the only member of NSYNC beloved by all, stopped to take a selfie.

There’s no time like the present to begin ending posts with several songs I currently have on rotation with Apple Music:

Published by That Chelsea Girl

That Chelsea Girl, aka Chelsea Hands, lives, works, and plays deep in the heart of Texas. A 30-something that loves fashion, food, and music, when Chelsea isn't working, she can be found outside, hiking or swimming. In 2017, Chelsea founded Girls Who Hike ATX, an empowering collective for girls & women who hike public lands in and around Austin.

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