Executive Q&A
Hot Topic

Execs Weigh In


Another day, another AI news-making headline. “AI is the future!” “AI is an awesome tool!” “AI technology is worthy of grave concern!” This daily dose of AI pronouncements makes it clear that AI is here, whether that’s in the form of a new landscape for design possibilities, or a useful tool for data-capture for super-forecasting purposes, or a breakthrough way of optimizing supply chain efficiencies.  Designers, fabric suppliers and brand managers all had something to say on the hot topic of AI when we asked: “Does AI have the potential to be a game-changer in the textile industry? Why/Why not?”  Here are their responses:

Jason Belaire

Chair-Emeritus at Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA)

“The simple answer to the question is, yes. Most technology can aid in streamlining existing processes and or in creating new ones. AI is one tech touch point that could potentially revolutionize the way we conduct business. It can help in generating concepts rapidly which can lead to better and faster outputs with greater flow. It can potentially even burst bubbles that many brands have existed in due to various reasons, self-inflicted and/or environmental. Any industry that is considering engaging in such a technology has a responsibility to educate themselves in understanding what ‘our’ current behaviors are, where they originated from and if AI will perpetuate dysfunctional traits, especially after the newness wears off.

We certainly have a history of not digging deep enough into why we do the things we do and how we got here. But equally important to ask ourselves is if we will adapt to such technology even though there is a pressure to do so. Additionally, there is no real way to benchmark and empirically measure such rapidly advancing tech. Yes, our competitors will adapt tech to give them a competitive edge in order to increase their financial bottom line. But what will the long-term consequences be like which will inevitably affect us individually and socially. What will you say 10 years from now looking back? Will we have abandoned our beliefs in concepts such as human observation and experience in order to just keep pushing forward as that is what we are influenced to do? Let’s hope not.”

Steven Lerman

EVP, VP Consumer Marketing, Brookwood Companies

“At this moment AI is not a ‘game changer,’ as performance textiles is a tactile industry that will always demand a ‘human element.’ However, I do think with the speed and deep knowledge of AI, these systems can help streamline certain tasks such as design and processing, leading to cost efficiencies.”

Ruth Kelly

Performance Materials Consulting-Weft x Warp, Chief Innovation Officer, SSEAMS.co

“AI is like how I’ve heard fire described: In the early stages of using fire, lots of people got burned. But when people learn to use it properly, and mindfully, fire can become a useful tool for discovery. The same is true for AI. There are a lot of exciting things happening now, and many possibilities to use AI as a helpful tool – whether that’s boosting efficiencies in production or advancing sustainability by using resources respectfully. However, we need to keep our morals and ethics in check as AI makes gains. AI is a tool we can use, it’s not a tool using us.

When I think of all the research I do – gathering technical insights, thinking about fibres, construction, performance, comfort etc – AI could be huge as a tool to provide viable solutions with less guesswork and  in a  significantly reduced  timeframe and cost. For instance, if AI produces four feasible development  options for a new technical leggings fabric taking into account all requirements, then this can offer a whole new quicker and more accurate starting point for development. Humans would then take over the creative process with less iterations required to be physically made prior to  commercializing and validating a material.

AI not only has the ability to spit out predictable fabric suggestions but can also unlock insights into unexpected solutions.  

We’re not living in the year 1850, yet we are still cutting out little squares of fabric as part of the development cycle! AI can be a means of accelerating and amplifying innovation.”

Jacob Bell

Operations Director, Dovetail Workwear

“I think AI has the potential to help with and improve the backend efficiencies around forecasting and supply chain management, but will never be able to predict the latent frustrations we all experience that spur us in the industry to create the next performance fabric or garment.”

James Huang

President Sales & Operations, Kingwhale

“AI is highly interesting and a growing trend. However, Performance Textiles has been working with Smart Textiles for quite a few years. So, is AI another word for the next gen of Smart Textiles? I think with all the AI capabilities, currently, it can help a mill/manufacturer in the processing of textiles while being more efficient in quality control and reduced redundancies.”