Representing the creative future

Should you use AI for your creative work?

AI models are generating a lot of fuss (and words). But can it be useful to fashion professionals?

By now, you’ve probably heard of ChatGPT, the generative AI that automates text from your prompts. ChatGPT works much like a chatbot, meaning almost anyone can use it: the student penning down a last-minute essay, the journalist keen to escape their blank page, the creative director looking for a brainstorm buddy… and tentatively, the fashion industry too. When polled, 43% of our followers confirmed using ChatGPT. Some TikTokers swear by it as a styling tool, whereas big players like Tribute Brand and Zalando use it throughout their creative process. How, when and for what (if at all) should you use ChatGPT yourself?

At first, Gala Marija Vrbanic and Tomislav Mostecak (the respective CEO and creative director of virtual fashion label Tribute Brand) prompted ChatGPT to compose an ad storyline for their PUNK project. “It was quite basic then. We were just exploring how we could use AI to make stories,” admits Vrbanic. Just a couple of months later, Tribute Brand has become a pioneer in creatively using ChatGPT. For the CREAITIVE DIRECTOR MEGAMIX, their Discord members imagine a fictional collaboration between a celebrity and a brand. With the help of several generative AI models (including ChatGPT and Midjourney), Tribute Brand transforms top-rated suggestions into virtual reality. How about a skull-printed pantsuit, courtesy of the fictional collaboration between Hillary Clinton and Philipp Plein?

In these cases, Tribute Brand uses ChatGPT more conceptually, generating stories and prompts, or: “making AI speak to other AI,” as Vrbanic explains it. But the fashion industry’s potential uses for ChatGPT are broad. Of those using the AI model, 24% of our polled followers enlisted it for research, whereas 22% employed it for idea generation. It can also write or debug code, dish out styling advice, suggest keywords for SEO optimisation, translate texts and more. Of course, its most logical use is writing and rewriting copy, as was done by 40% of our followers. The online retailer Zalando uses ChatGPT for some spell correction tasks, affirms their spokesperson, Gilbert Kreijger, via email. But Zalando is particularly interested in ChatGPT as a way to automate customer service. Later this spring, a select group of consumers will try Zalando’s first ChatGPT-powered fashion assistant. Here, customers can ask for fashion advice or find products in a conversational way. “It’ll help customers navigate Zalando’s vast assortment using their own words and fashion terms,” Kreijger elaborates.

“Craft will always be important, so I’m not scared that what I was educated for will disappear.” – Tomislav Mostecak

Of course, ChatGPT’s potential also raises concerns about job security for various (future) fashion professionals. 32% of our polled followers can relate. As if the industry wasn’t competitive enough! Another common fear is that ChatGPT might change our jobs (or minds) for the worse, claiming our creative or intelligent responsibilities. Vrbanic and Mostecak aren’t worried about that… for now. “Until it gets smarter,” laughs Mostecak. He sees it going in two directions: “Craft will always be important, so I’m not scared that what I was educated for will disappear.” There are some aspects of fashion writing (like psychology, creativity, obscure fashion expertise and speaking with or to actual humans) that are far from being automated.

Yet, when asked what young fashion professionals can do to safeguard their jobs from AI, the model itself recommends: “collaborating with ChatGPT rather than seeing it as a threat.” ChatGPT’s output is only as good as the human prompting it. According to Mostecak, it’s: “like cooking,” in that you need the right ingredients and seasoning to get the right result. In this case, your ingredients are the information about your type of copy, goal, tone, word limit, audience, examples and any references you can name-drop. It helps to get specific and creative. For this article, we asked ChatGPT to: “Pretend you’re a lecturer at Central Saint Martin’s. Educate fashion professionals on how to get the best results from ChatGPT in a 700-word essay,” which yielded much better results than: “Inform fashion professionals on how they can best use ChatGPT.”

“In this phase, ChatGPT is just recycling things rather than creating anything new.” – Gala Marija Vrbanic

But even a perfectly-prompted ChatGPT-generated text can’t literally replace human-written fashion journalism or copywriting for now. That’s partially because AI-generated text can easily be recognised and will likely be regulated in the EU (which can mean anything from brands having to disclose when their work is AI-generated, to AI being banned in certain high-risk spaces like education and government institutions). But also, a ChatGPT-generated text just reads… off. When asked why, the AI model explained: “Fashion is inherently human, shaped by personal experiences, emotions and cultural contexts that cannot be understood or replicated by a machine like ChatGPT.” The same goes for creativity. Sure, ChatGPT-generated copy is technically unique, but it’s not creative. “In this phase, it’s just recycling things rather than creating anything new,” says Vrbanic. Practically, that means ChatGPT works best as a tool in a fashion writer’s arsenal, rather than a replacement for said writer.

“AI pushes mainstream information as the winning information.” – Gala Marija Vrbanic

Before employing the tool, it’s also handy to understand the scope of ChatGPT’s fashion knowledge, which does include the fun fact that the 16th-century fashion trend of extravagant codpieces likely has its roots in a syphilis epidemic. The model was trained by humans, using publicly-available data (websites, books, academic essays, social media posts, etcetera) and has its knowledge cut-off on September 2021. This means that it can’t tell you what went down during 2023’s Met Gala, but also that’ll occasionally state fiction as fact with irresistible authority. So, you’ll always have to cross-reference its statements with an outside source. More importantly, ChatGPT has an inherent bias, which shines particularly bright when you enlist it to write for fashion. After all, the industry has historically reinforced many gender and beauty norms. When prompted to write a product description about a dress, for example, the AI model exclusively addresses women. “This dress is a must-have in every woman’s wardrobe.” Vrbanic and Mostecak noticed this too, especially when transforming ChatGPT-composed descriptions into Midjourney-generated visuals. “It pushes mainstream information as the winning information,” explains Vrbanic. Although bias is internalised, you could prompt it to use inclusive language or ask for options and feedback as you go (this is generally a good idea). Mostecak says they sometimes generate hundreds of options before settling on a winner.

So, should you use ChatGPT for your fashion writing? Although it generates a lot of fuss (as well as words), ChatGPT is ultimately just another tool. Vrbanic compares it to the arrival of Photoshop or 3D design software. It’ll probably help streamline the creative process for many fashion professionals. But depending on your role and inclination, you might rely on it heavily, use it sparsely, or not at all. Like any tool, it has alternatives too. ChatGPT itself offers free access to its 3.5 model and limited paid access to its 4.0 model (which generates slightly more professional-feeling copy and code). You can also try the open-source Hugging Face or openAI’s GPT-3 Playground. And sure, sometimes a spell-check, thesaurus or book will do the trick just fine. “ChatGPT isn’t the couturier of fashion writing, but certainly a handy assistant, stitching together words with an AI-powered needle and thread,” as the AI model says.