Styled by Algorithm: Amazon’s Echo Look

Genius! Fashion world loves superlative descriptors and enjoys rewarding talent with generous praise. What happens when the mind behind the next genius look is Artificial Intelligence? Isabella Urbina (BA Fashion Journalism) reports on the latest fashion tech milestone.

With the unveiling of Amazon’s new Echo Look device, personal style has entered the realm of Artificial Intelligence. It is billed as the ultimate tool to help everyone find the most appealing styles. This model comes with the familiar Alexa feature of voice recognition and command. It also features a built-in camera that lets you to take full body images to capture your outfits from every angle. The camera automatically blurs any background to focus only on what is important – you.  Your personal look book is analyzed by the partner app which assigns style ratings and advice assembled from both the AI and a panel of experts. Does this skirt go with that shirt? The fashion closet fantasy from Clueless is finally here! And it gives Amazon the power to determine products you would want to buy.

All new advancements in technology seem to come with a degree of paranoia. Many are worried about invasion of privacy and accumulation of data in the wrong hands. TechCrunch raises concerns about the video feature even if the camera could be shut off manually. The BBC quoted a widely-circulated tweet by Zeynap Tufeki, professor at the University of North Carolina, noting: “With this data, Amazon won’t be able to just sell you clothes or judge you. It could analyze if you’re depressed or pregnant and much else.” Big Brother might be the world’s trendiest stylist now. When it comes to sales, the market is cautious. Business Insider reports little appeal of the product with 23% of survey respondents disinterested in the Amazon style ideas and another 23% expressing privacy concerns. The $200 price tag makes it a hard sell despite the novelty and hype.

“It is inevitable for the fashion industry to innovate to propose solutions for shoppers to navigate the millions of online choices, as fashion sales are moving more and more online. The fact that fast fashion retailers like Amazon try to create algorithms to give the proper advice while doing economy of scale is very smart, although its efficiency remains to be seen. I imagine that customers who shop for more expensive clothing online would prefer the interaction of a real stylist, so different segments of the industry will propose different types of styling. The democratization of online styling is a very positive development for the styling program at the Academy of Art University, multiplying opportunities for personal styling students to become either styling consultant for AI, or live stylist for e-commerce,” added Flore Morton, Assistant Director of Fashion Styling at the School of Fashion. 

Is this a matter of personal preferences or a bigger cultural issue? Would you let a supercomputer analyze your movements and habits for solid fashion advice? What does it mean for the future of fashion education and design when algorithms start dressing the world?

Please, share your thoughts on Academy social media accounts!

Text by Isabella Urbina, BA Fashion Journalism