Short Take: Does Levi’s Have The Answer?

Moments ago, I trashed the post I wrote about Levi’s announcement that it plans to use AI generated models in order to provide its customers with greater diversity.

Fashion brand Levi Strauss & Co has announced a partnership with digital fashion studio to make custom artificial intelligence (AI) generated avatars in what it says will increase diversity among its models.

San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co — often shortened to just Levi’s — is perhaps best known for its wide range of blue jeans. Founded in 1853, the company says it is one of the world’s largest brand-name apparel companies and is a global leader in jeanswear. It has chosen to partner with in order to use its advanced AI to create a wider range of avatars to model its clothes.

Levi’s explains that it know its what its customers want and plans to give it to them good and hard.

We know our customers want to shop with models who look like them, and we believe our models should reflect our consumers, which is why we’re continuing to diversify our human models in terms of size and body type, age and skin color. This AI technology can potentially assist us by supplementing models and unlocking a future where we can enable customers to see our products on more models that look like themselves, creating a more personal and inclusive shopping experience.

In the post I’d written and trashed, I expressed my view that Levi’s has both missed the boat on diversity by eliminating any actually diverse human being from being involved in favor of achieving equity the old fashioned way, by eliminating people altogether. From there, I launched into my doubts that anybody actually wants to see how jeans look on someone in dire need of sit-ups and fewer maple bacon donuts.

But then I realized that it may only be me who doesn’t buy into this “looks like me” mantra. On the one hand, not all old Jewish guys look alike, so if they generate an AI model for old white man, there’s nothing about it that “looks like me” to begin with. But more importantly, I’m well aware of what I look like. I have a mirror. I want to see the clothing to buy, and seeing it on some unattractive person who happens to share some remotely similar characteristics does not make them “look like me,” present anything that I wish to see or would make me want to buy the clothing.

Am I wrong? Is it just me?

25 thoughts on “Short Take: Does Levi’s Have The Answer?

  1. Jennifer

    I used to be obese. This was before everybody else was apparently, because I could not find clothing that fit at most stores. Luckily, I discovered low carb, and dropped over 100 pounds. That said, while I would have loved stylish clothes that fit, I definitely would not have been moved to buy them if I saw them on a model who looked like me.

    1. SHG Post author

      I’ve been chubby most of my life. When I could finally afford them, I bought bespoke suits because they fit better and were far more comfortable to wear. They didn’t turn me into an Adonis, but a chubby guy in a good suit. That was the best I could do, and it was silly of me to pretend otherwise.

      Also, I do Atkins every few years for about 6 months to slim back down to mere chubby when buttoning my trousers becomes a chore. It worked for many years, but the last time, it didn’t work at all. My dreams of becoming a fashion model have been dashed.

  2. Guitardave

    Not a bad idea if they could just leave the fucking politics out of it.
    Just punch in all size measurements, and you get to see the garment on a similar sized and skin hued body.

    You know, sometimes its hard to guess if that sweet little cocktail dress is gonna sit right on a girl with a body like a linebacker…

  3. F. Lee Billy

    Right as rain. I thought this was a law blog? But you’re a lawyer, so you can say anything you want and get away with it.

  4. Moose

    As a guy nicknamed “Moose”, real clothing models have never looked like me, so I have no expectations that AI-fake clothing models would look like me either. Why have models bigger than the sizes you sell? Even Cabela’s, which would famously offer things up to XXXXXXL, never actually showed someone wearing them.

    As an aside (and I could be wrong), wasn’t the original intent of “diversity” movements to increase employment amongst the affected segment of the population? In that case, computer generated diversity does little or nothing.

  5. Richard Parker

    It’s just a payoff to whoever controls the AI firm. I’m sure that they are pretty diverse.

  6. Michael Miller

    At a startup, one hat I wore for a while was organizing our trade show presence. I was surprised how difficult it was to determine what we could do to increase leads that resulted in sales.

    I bore you with this story because I suspect the same dynamics are at work here: like many trade show marketers, Levi’s internally is focusing on looking cool instead of focusing on either moving product or pleasing customers. And like trade show vendors, purveyors of AI “solutions” have a product to sell, and if they can sell it because it sounds cool, why worry about making it serve the customer?

    Most people’s computers don’t have the color fidelity to make “does this color shirt make my bespoke AI model’s skin look pallid” useful anyway, as far as I can tell. So I’m not sure there’s even a next step from inclusive-looking to useful with this one.

  7. Hunting Guy

    The guys I work with don’t give a flying F about how the pants look on a model. The drillers, dozer operator, and blasters aren’t fashionistas and want pants that fit and won’t rip out when they stuff tools in the pockets or hang a carabiner with a couple of dozen keys on a belt loop.

    Levi needs to go back to what they did originally, making clothing for miners, cowboys, and other labours.

    1. L. Phillips

      That’s what Carhartt was for until they also went off the rails. Apparently the siren song of expanding profits from selling cheap crap to millennials is hard to resist.

      1. Hal

        A guy I knew, many years ago, had two. He was nearly always able to keep at least one of them running, though sometimes it meant cannibalizing the other.

  8. Gus

    Levi’s not only missed the boat on this one, they ended up in the lake all wet. Not that the marketing committee with all its inexperienced MBA’s that came up with this will even understand what’s gone wrong.

    Customers respond to aspirational images – I buy this item because that is what I envision myself as being. I’m my minds eye don’t need to lose 15 pounds, I’ve already lost them, and the model validates this for me…I just buy one size up for comfort. Yeah, that’s it, comfort….

    And I am not an AI, nor do I aspire to be one. So by all means use AI models to get rid of your humans in ads so no one relates to your product. As a bonus you elevate the appearance of diversity over actual diversity, what could go wrong?

    But what do I know, I’ve only spent 40+ years providing customers with what they want and need, with sales growth and profits to prove it.

  9. JR

    If they really wanted to be diverse, they should use muscular, ripped male models with big bulges to attract gay customers to their websites and clothing stores ala ” International Male” back in the 90s. We didnt really care about the clothing but just wanted to see scantily clothed males and big bulges. In our lust desire to look like the models, we bought the clothing, which got the attention of straight women, who soon started doting on us, visiting our gay bars, which made their boyfriends jealous of us fabulously attired gay men, which got them to start dressing snazzy which started the metrosexual movement. So you see, Levi’s should take a page from the homosexual agenda because we influence all fashion houses.

    / sarc

    NB: There is nothing unattractive about chubby Jews with big bulges wallets

  10. B. McLeod

    A lot of the clothing purveyors are already using obese models. This is different from most of the “looks like me” stuff, however. Sticking LGBTQ and other marginalized people on TV and in the movies everywhere is part of a politicized drive to “normalize” them. Obese people are already the norm in this country. So with obese models, it’s more about trying to reassure the obese customers. It is ironic that the AI is actually a method of doing it artificially, without having to accept any actual obese models on payroll (or the health plan).

      1. B. McLeod

        Well, “morbidly obese” is like a separate category, not as widespread. It does have its own political normalization campaign, though, currently led by Lizzo.

  11. F. Lee Billy

    Around here, yoga pants are all the rage. That solves some problems for the younger gals and ladies. However, some women should never wear yoga pants, especially those over 40, for reasons we won’t go into.

    Men should not wear them either, for obvious reasons. We like Levii’s, but prefer Wrangler. This AI stuff is getting a little out of hand. Older is usually better. Sorry I woke up today to find all these (fairly cogent comments).

  12. schorsch

    The photos provided by Levi’s and Lalaland show a homogeneous and exclusive lot of young, stylish girls. No male, no older, no fat or ugly people.

    Quite a misanthropist’s idea of ‘diversity’.

  13. Chaswjd

    So Levi’s will have models who won’t actually model clothes because, as computer pixels, they can’t actually wear clothes.

    If the company wanted models who actually looked like the average person, it could have simply sent recruiters out on the street. It could offer people off the street money to model. I am sure it wouldn’t take much convincing and the company could have a whole group of actual average people for their ads. There would be no need for AI “models” at all.

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