FASHION FLAIR: HUAWEI X ANNAKIKI
Fashion Flair is the first collection co-designed with Artificial Intelligence. An interview with Anna Yang, the designer and creative director of ANNAKIKI, and Isabella Lazzini, marketing director of Huawei Italia.
For the newest collection of her label ANNAKIKI, Anna Yang had a very special co-creator: the Huawei P30 Pro smartphone. Fashion Flair, the first collection co-designed with Artificial Intelligence, was unveiled in Milan last Wednesday. For this venture Huawei chose Anna Yang to complete its unique fashion concept.
It is the latest chapter in Huawei’s “Humanly Possible” narrative; in which human expertise and Artificial Intelligence combine to push the boundaries of what is humanly possible. It expands the realms of creativity. Bringing endless possibilities right to our fingertips with a smartphone as the enabling tool for human and technological co-creation. To create the collection, Huawei specially developed an original app with which Anna Yang could interact, take inspiration from and design with. This is the first step towards a new smartphone-based approach to fashion design.
It was no surprise that Milan’s usually blasé fashion crowd was uncharacteristically abuzz ahead of the show. It was clear we were here to witness fashion history. But what does ‘a collection co-designed with AI’ even look like? Bold, colourful and confident. Gowns featured smartphone-case accessories, masculine silhouettes found a girly spin and models took selfies on the runway. It was an honest and fun insight into the future of fashion.
Interview spoke to Anna Yang and marketing director of Huawei Italia, Isabella Lazzini, to find out how this all came to be.
INTERVIEW Let’s start from the beginning, what was your first thought when Huawei came to you with the idea of creating a collection with a smartphone as a co-creator?
ANNA YANG I thought it was a very cool thing and I was very enthusiastic about it. I was really looking forward to seeing the outcome.
I Were you sceptical or in any way afraid to collaborate with Artificial Intelligence?
AY I wasn’t afraid, just really eager to collaborate. I embraced this new challenge for my collection.
I Could you tell us about these challenges?
AY I think the biggest challenge was the fact that the app in the end is still a machine, so despite the very good input it gave, it was still up to me to give this kind of human touch and human creativity to the collection. So I think the biggest challenge was to bring my own creativity to the designs generated by the app.
“AI can be very useful to designers but it can’t completely replace human creativity.”
– ANNA YANG
I Can you describe the process of designing this collection with the P30 Pro?
AY So first the app gave me a series of outfits to choose from and I chose the ones that I felt were the most similar to my sensitivity. Then I made some changes to fabrics, colours and other details, in order to make the collection really coherent with my style. I really just added some details and made some few changes, because the outfits the app gave me were really very good.
ISABELLA LAZZINI I can explain how the app works. So basically the app has been trained with tens and thousands of images from the most iconic fashion shows in the last one hundred years. We trained the app just like a brain. We also input data of the Annakiki style. This was very important because we needed to train the AI to understand her brand in order to output something that would be in her style. It’s based on photography, so the output is a photograph as well. By setting certain parameters such as colour, shape, length and pattern, the app is able to learn the characteristics that make up a garment and then repeat them to make a new garment. By setting and selecting the images the designer likes, the designer is able to give stimuli to the app which then produces a photograph of a design as fitted on a model. This is the kind of magic and power of artificial intelligence today.
I What was the biggest advantage of working with this system?
AY It was very helpful in the fact that it took many parts of my past collections and it transformed this data into new outfits that I could use for my collection. So it was still my own style but it had some details I hadn’t thought of. The app gave me new perspectives on outfits and styles. So the time that I usually spend looking for inspiration was condensed in this process. It helped me reduce severely the time to create the collection itself.
I Do you have a favourite piece from the collection?
AY I think the thing I like most about this collection is the use of very flashy colours and very flashy fabrics, so the kind of fabrics that when put under light change completely, so it’s kind of different.
I What’s the inspiration behind this collection?
AY A big inspiration were the colours Huawei chose for the smartphones. So in the collection you will see that we used a lot of colours similar to the P30 Pro cases; like amber, black, orange and holographic colours. I think that also pushed me in my fabric choices, to find fabrics that could compliment these colours.
I Can you tell us a bit about the show?
AY It’s a surprise haha.
“At Huawei we use Artificial Intelligence and human expertise to push the boundaries of what is humanly possible.”
– Isabella Lazzini
I Do you think technology could replace human designers at one point in the future?
AY I think AI can be very useful to designers but it can’t completely replace human creativity.
IL Yeah, actually at Huawei we use Artificial Intelligence and human expertise to push the boundaries of what is humanly possible. Following this narrative, we have used AI in many different ways. The first time it was in the project named “The Frequency of Love” in which we used AI to translate the frequency of whale sounds into music, which is universal language, right? Everyone understands music. And we did this to raise funds for the protection of this endangered species. We also used AI for “Storysign”, where we taught AI how to read and translate books into sign language. This was to help deaf children learn to read. This “AI for good” was really amazing. And now this is a chapter that we call “AI for co-creation”. We actually co-created with AI the “Unfinished Symphony”. So we taught AI the Schubert symphony and the it was able to complete it. And now we see AI is able to co-create with a designer, so it becomes an additional source of inspiration for any way to create. It doesn’t mean that the AI is going to replace a traditional job, we don’t want to say that, we just want to co-create.
And I think Anna was the best choice, because China today is a country that is very evolved from a technological perspective. The smartphone is truly embedded in normal everyday life, but this is particularly true for China. So for us the selection of the right designer was very important; to find a designer who could really appreciate the opportunity of co-creating and inject their work with technology. That’s why the choice of Anna was really perfect. Anna has been able to cross the boundaries the Chinese region, and gone on to show at the runways of Milan, Paris and London fashion weeks – which is just amazing. And the thing I would like to add that we’re going to use also the app in a design institute to allow new designers to start co-creating with the app. We will put the collection of Anna online at Luisaviaroma.com, and will use the funds to pay the scholarships for these new young designers to enrich their work with technology.
I How will this experience affect how you design in the future?
AY This experience gave me a new mindset to see a new collection. So I hope I will use the AI again for my collections in the future because it’s really a different approach to the creative process. Technology is a big part of our everyday life, so I would really be happy to incorporate this technology into my work. I think it’s very important for designers to adapt to new challenges and to be able to incorporate technology in this process.
Interview SARAH OSEI