Armani, Kapoor Bring Tranquil Close to Milan Fashion Week

A model presents a creation of Giorgio Armani during the Autumn-Winter 2023-2024 Men's fashion show as part of the Milan Fashion Week on January 16, 2023. (AFP)
A model presents a creation of Giorgio Armani during the Autumn-Winter 2023-2024 Men's fashion show as part of the Milan Fashion Week on January 16, 2023. (AFP)
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Armani, Kapoor Bring Tranquil Close to Milan Fashion Week

A model presents a creation of Giorgio Armani during the Autumn-Winter 2023-2024 Men's fashion show as part of the Milan Fashion Week on January 16, 2023. (AFP)
A model presents a creation of Giorgio Armani during the Autumn-Winter 2023-2024 Men's fashion show as part of the Milan Fashion Week on January 16, 2023. (AFP)

Milan Fashion Week closed four days of mostly menswear previews for next fall and winter on a note of tranquility.

Italian fashion world stalwart Giorgio Armani took his admirers inside Milan’s hidden courtyards, islands of calm concealed from general view within the walls of the city’s austere neoclassical architecture.

Indian designer Dhruv Kapoor, a relative Milan newcomer, hopes to promote an interior journey with a new collection in which he seeks to reconcile alter-egos – be they romantic, aggressive or pensive – as a way of healing.

While creating similar moods, the presented designs couldn’t have been more aesthetically opposite: one a study in tailoring and muted hues, the other an explosion of color on silhouettes that mix the oversized with the petite.

Highlights from Monday’s shows:

Dhruv Kapoor promotes healing

Kapoor has a message of radical self-acceptance in his collection, which combined floral prints promoting stillness, cartoon images of Godzilla representing aggression and lace details for romanticism.

The designer, through his unisex collection dubbed “The Embracer,” advocates embracing all of our parts, even those viewed negatively. Not that he thinks the solution lies in wardrobing.

“It’s a very simple process. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, ‘I love you.’ And see how the magic starts to shift. You just need to admire yourself just the way you are,” Kapoor said backstage, adding that he has felt a dramatic shift since adopting the practice. “I don’t know how it comes. I never dwell on the how.”

Broad-shoulder suit jackets were combined with tight trousers that flare into a bell bottom. Oversized sweatshirts were layered with cotton tunics and a sheer lace pant. Godzilla raged on the front of a button-down shirt, while a silver pillow jacket had reptilian spikes down the back.

“Godzilla also has a very negative, monstrous thing attached to it,” Kapoor said. But that should not impede acceptance, he insisted.

Crystals on knitwear, suits and jackets hold energy that Kapoor said can be activated to have a positive impact on the wearer’s life. Instructions are included with the garments.

Models traversed the Tiepolo room in the 18th century Clerici Palace beneath images that included demons, walking to the beat of modems connecting mixed with classical music and hip hop. The mashup gives “us a whiff of the past and the future,” Kapoor said. “And we are birthing a new present.”

Kapoor also promotes healing for the environment. Nearly two-thirds of his collection is either upcycled, employing leftover textiles that otherwise would be discarded, or recycled. For this season, all of his suit fabrics are made from recycled plastics.

Armani’s hidden Milan

Hidden from view in Italy’s frenetic fashion and finance capital are quiet gardens ensconced in Milan’s courtyards.

Giorgio Armani suggests these are places to pause and take stock before emerging for business or play, this season on soft footwear with rubber soles.

Models walked slowly to a soundtrack of Italian pianist-composer Ludovico Einaudi soundtrack while wearing suits and separates that were deeply textured, projecting self-assuredness in the 88-year-old designer’s trademark soft-silhouette.

The color palette consisted of soft earthy tones set off by olive and forest green with a surge of crimson in sportswear and a final smattering of weekend dandy looks. Flannel cargo pants were paired with soft sweaters. Disciplined double-breasted suits befitted a negotiating table. Big gake furs, including one in tiger print, lightened the quiet mood.

Armani conceded that flashes of skin on other runways this season had a sensuality. But he stuck by his conviction: “You can wear anything you want, but when you are at an important table, you need to wear an important suit.”

His one transgression: ties that arch under the knot, as if pulled loose, and worn tucked into vests, “to give space to relax.”

“Stiff is not good,” the designer added.



Apparel Maker Gildan Recommends Two Browning West Nominees to Board

Representation photo: A model presents a creation from the Fall/Winter 2023/2024 Collection by British designer Kim Jones for Dior fashion house during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, France, 20 January 2023. (EPA)
Representation photo: A model presents a creation from the Fall/Winter 2023/2024 Collection by British designer Kim Jones for Dior fashion house during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, France, 20 January 2023. (EPA)
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Apparel Maker Gildan Recommends Two Browning West Nominees to Board

Representation photo: A model presents a creation from the Fall/Winter 2023/2024 Collection by British designer Kim Jones for Dior fashion house during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, France, 20 January 2023. (EPA)
Representation photo: A model presents a creation from the Fall/Winter 2023/2024 Collection by British designer Kim Jones for Dior fashion house during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, France, 20 January 2023. (EPA)

Gildan Activewear recommended the election of two Browning West nominees to its board on Monday, ahead of its annual and special shareholder meeting on May 28.
The Canadian clothing maker's board has been clashing with activist fund Browning West, which owns 5% of Gildan, following the ouster of co-founder and CEO Glenn Chamandy in December, Reuters said.
In January, Browning West escalated its fight with Gildan, expanding its list of board candidates to eight from five and called an annual and special shareholder meeting amid the ongoing dispute to replace a majority of its board members and reinstate Chamandy as CEO.
On Monday, the board recommended the election of Karen Stuckey and J.P. Towner, nominated by Browning West. It also appointed five new independent directors to its board effective May 1, 2024.
Gildan had said in March its board decided to put the company up for sale and is in talks with multiple bidders.
The company added on Monday that external interest in an acquisition persists and the process is ongoing.


Louis Vuitton Holds 'Voyager' Fashion Show in Shanghai

A logo of Louis Vuitton is displayed on a Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, March 30, 2024. (Reuters)
A logo of Louis Vuitton is displayed on a Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, March 30, 2024. (Reuters)
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Louis Vuitton Holds 'Voyager' Fashion Show in Shanghai

A logo of Louis Vuitton is displayed on a Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, March 30, 2024. (Reuters)
A logo of Louis Vuitton is displayed on a Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, March 30, 2024. (Reuters)

Louis Vuitton debuted its newly-labeled "Voyager" traveling show in Shanghai on Thursday night, showing off asymmetric hemlines and boxy leather vests in the country that is one of the brand's key markets.
More than 1,000 invitees, including international celebrities like Cate Blanchett and local stars such as Zhou Dongyu and Jackson Wang, took in the pre-fall collection designed by women's artistic director Nicolas Ghesquière, Reuters said.
The show was held in the cavernous concrete expanse of the Atelier Deshaus-designed Long Museum, in the riverside West Bund art district. It included pieces made in collaboration with Beijing-based artist Sun Yitian, who painstakingly paints photographs of inflated plastic animals, including ducklings, cats and rabbits. Reprints of her works were incorporated into the opening designs of the show.
In the days leading up to the show, images of Sun's work popped up around Shanghai, China's most international city, projected onto the exterior of malls and plastering walls in hip shopping and lifestyle districts.
For Louis Vuitton, the largest luxury brand in the LVMH stable, China continues to represent one of the world's most important luxury opportunities, even as a broader economic slowdown and consumer malaise stymie growth.
LVMH said on Tuesday that year-on-year sales for the quarter ending in March rose 3% on an organic basis, but purchases by Chinese shoppers globally grew 10%.
Last year, Louis Vuitton's men's line, helmed by Pharell Williams, staged a large-scale show in Hong Kong.


L’Oreal Shares Shine After Sales Beat Expectations 

A cosmetic display of French cosmetics group L'Oreal is seen at a duty free shop at the Nice International Airport, in Nice, France, October 10, 2018. (Reuters)
A cosmetic display of French cosmetics group L'Oreal is seen at a duty free shop at the Nice International Airport, in Nice, France, October 10, 2018. (Reuters)
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L’Oreal Shares Shine After Sales Beat Expectations 

A cosmetic display of French cosmetics group L'Oreal is seen at a duty free shop at the Nice International Airport, in Nice, France, October 10, 2018. (Reuters)
A cosmetic display of French cosmetics group L'Oreal is seen at a duty free shop at the Nice International Airport, in Nice, France, October 10, 2018. (Reuters)

Shares in L'Oreal rose more than 4% in early Friday trading after the French cosmetics giant beat expectations with a strong rise in first quarter sales on Thursday evening, allaying concerns about a slowdown in the United States.

L'Oreal shares were up 5.0% at 0745 GMT having lost 6% this year up to Thursday's close.

"A rock solid quarter, despite concerns," said analysts at Barclays. While L'Oreal did acknowledge a slowdown in the United States, it "comfortably surprised to the upside," both in the US and Europe, they said.

The world's biggest beauty company reported more than 12% sales growth in both North America and Europe, lifted by its mass market range and dermatological products, which helped offset weakness in the luxury segment.

"L'Oreal delivered a strong beat," Bernstein analysts wrote in a note to investors.

They noted L'Oreal's ability to shift investments in advertising and promotions to different parts of the world and across categories and demographics, enabling it to optimize global growth and make it more resilient.


Dior Looks to Marlene Dietrich in New York Fall Show

Logos of Dior brand are seen outside a Dior store in Paris, France, March 3, 2017. (Reuters)
Logos of Dior brand are seen outside a Dior store in Paris, France, March 3, 2017. (Reuters)
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Dior Looks to Marlene Dietrich in New York Fall Show

Logos of Dior brand are seen outside a Dior store in Paris, France, March 3, 2017. (Reuters)
Logos of Dior brand are seen outside a Dior store in Paris, France, March 3, 2017. (Reuters)

French fashion house Christian Dior unveiled a fall line inspired by actress Marlene Dietrich at a catwalk show in New York on Monday evening.
Nodding to Dietrich's personal style, Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri dressed models in white shirts, sometimes with ties, pleated trousers and black blazers.
Belted or cowl-neck dresses looked to 1940s silhouettes while some frocks sparkled with beading, Reuters said.
There were also nods to New York, with prints of the Statue of Liberty featuring on some designs. Others were adorned with depictions of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, where Dior is based.
Chiuri worked with artist Claire Fontaine on designing the show space, with pairs of illuminated hands adorning the catwalk's backdrop.
"These hands represent positively and in an empowering way the female sex and they are the hands of the seamstresses, of the creators, myself, of Maria Grazia and the hands of the women that made this project possible," Fontaine said in an interview.
Among the celebrities attending the show were actors Anya Taylor-Joy, Michelle Williams, Naomi Watts, Rosamund Pike and Charlize Theron.


Designer Berluti Reveals Opening Ceremony Tuxedo for French Athletes

An employee shows the Paris 2024 - Berluti label sewn inside the suit jacket for the French team athletes for the opening ceremony by LVMH's upscale menswear label Berluti, in a showroom at Berluti headquarters in Paris, France, April 10, 2024.  REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq
An employee shows the Paris 2024 - Berluti label sewn inside the suit jacket for the French team athletes for the opening ceremony by LVMH's upscale menswear label Berluti, in a showroom at Berluti headquarters in Paris, France, April 10, 2024. REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq
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Designer Berluti Reveals Opening Ceremony Tuxedo for French Athletes

An employee shows the Paris 2024 - Berluti label sewn inside the suit jacket for the French team athletes for the opening ceremony by LVMH's upscale menswear label Berluti, in a showroom at Berluti headquarters in Paris, France, April 10, 2024.  REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq
An employee shows the Paris 2024 - Berluti label sewn inside the suit jacket for the French team athletes for the opening ceremony by LVMH's upscale menswear label Berluti, in a showroom at Berluti headquarters in Paris, France, April 10, 2024. REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq

LVMH-owned menswear brand Berluti unveiled navy wool suits with colored silk lapels for France's Olympic athletes' opening ceremony outfits on Tuesday.
LVMH, a sponsor of the Paris 2024 games, said the "tuxedo-inspired outfit" reflected Berluti's identity, using "noble materials and patina effects" for an elegant, French look.
The jacket lapels have a red and blue motif inspired by the French flag and the brand's signature color-infused patina leather shoes. The women's jackets have cut-away sleeves.
Berluti was founded in Paris in 1895 by a young Italian shoemaker. The French athletes will also wear Berluti trainers or leather loafers.


Adidas Surges as Strong Momentum Helps Q1 Beat, Triggers Outlook Hike 

08 March 2022, Bavaria, Herzogenaurach: The logo of the sporting goods manufacturer Adidas on a blue jacket. (dpa)
08 March 2022, Bavaria, Herzogenaurach: The logo of the sporting goods manufacturer Adidas on a blue jacket. (dpa)
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Adidas Surges as Strong Momentum Helps Q1 Beat, Triggers Outlook Hike 

08 March 2022, Bavaria, Herzogenaurach: The logo of the sporting goods manufacturer Adidas on a blue jacket. (dpa)
08 March 2022, Bavaria, Herzogenaurach: The logo of the sporting goods manufacturer Adidas on a blue jacket. (dpa)

Shares in Adidas rose more than 7% on Wednesday, hitting their highest level in over two years after the German sportswear giant on Tuesday reported better-than-expected quarterly results and raised its 2024 guidance on stronger momentum.

Growth is being driven by strong demand momentum in "terrace" retro styles, such as Samba, Gazelle and Campus, as well as strength in performance categories, analysts at Wedbush said.

Analyst Cedric Lecasble at Stifel also highlighted that the raise in 2024 guidance "had little to do with Yeezy mechanics, but was much more driven by Adidas brand building materializing at full speed."

Adidas has been undergoing a turnaround after in October 2022 it cut ties with rapper West, who goes by Ye, suspending sales of the highly profitable Yeezy sneaker line.

It later resumed sales of Yeezy products under the lead of CEO Bjorn Gulden, in the job since the start of 2023, to clear remaining stock while seeking to boost its popular retro styles.

Lecasble described revenue performance in the first quarter as "impressive" in the context of challenging market conditions.

Analysts however view Adidas' guidance for operating profit (EBIT) of 700 million euros as still conservative.

Given that consensus already estimates the figure at around 890 million euros for 2024, RBC analyst Piral Dadhania pointed out, "the market clearly does not believe the EBIT guide, which to us appears to be unrealistic, and overly conservative."

Adidas delivered a quarterly EBIT of 336 million euros.

The company said it sold another 150 million euros worth of Yeezy products in the past quarter, for an operating profit of around 50 million euros. It, however, expects no further profit contribution from the remainder of Yeezy inventory, which it anticipated to sell for about 200 million euros later this year.

Shares were up 6% by 09:49 GMT, topping pan-European STOXX 600 index.


UK's ASOS Sinks to First-half Loss

A model presents the latest creations from the Dior pre-fall 2024 women’s collection at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, New York, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs
A model presents the latest creations from the Dior pre-fall 2024 women’s collection at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, New York, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs
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UK's ASOS Sinks to First-half Loss

A model presents the latest creations from the Dior pre-fall 2024 women’s collection at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, New York, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs
A model presents the latest creations from the Dior pre-fall 2024 women’s collection at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, New York, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

British online fashion retailer ASOS sunk to a first-half loss, as it battles competition from Chinese giant Shein and self-inflicted problems from excess stock, but it said it still expected an improvement over the year.
ASOS also named former Sainsburys and Amazon executive Dave Murray as its new chief financial officer on Wednesday, saying that his retail and e-commerce experience would help return the group to profitability, Reuters reported.
The company has struggled to grow since the pandemic and has cast its current financial year as a transition period, when it will speed up new collection launches and shed a build up of excess stock which has dragged on profits.
For the 26 weeks to March 3, ASOS posted an adjusted EBITDA loss of 16.3 million pounds ($20.3 million), compared to the 4.6 million pounds it made in the period last year.
Over the full-year period, it is sticking to a forecast for positive adjusted EBITDA on sales that are expected to be 5 to 15% lower.
"ASOS is becoming a faster and more agile business, and we are reiterating our guidance for the full year as we lay the foundations for sustainably profitable growth in full-year 2025 and beyond," CEO José Antonio Ramos Calamonte said.
ASOS is facing growing competition from fast-fashion giant Shein, which is expanding rapidly in Europe, offering low prices and benefiting from its speedy response to changing trends.


Dr. Martens Dour US Revenue Outlook for the Year Sends Stock of Iconic Bootmaker Plunging

A Dr. Martens boot inspired by Elton John's famous Pinball Wizard outfit is shown at a promotional event in London, March 20, 2023. (AP)
A Dr. Martens boot inspired by Elton John's famous Pinball Wizard outfit is shown at a promotional event in London, March 20, 2023. (AP)
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Dr. Martens Dour US Revenue Outlook for the Year Sends Stock of Iconic Bootmaker Plunging

A Dr. Martens boot inspired by Elton John's famous Pinball Wizard outfit is shown at a promotional event in London, March 20, 2023. (AP)
A Dr. Martens boot inspired by Elton John's famous Pinball Wizard outfit is shown at a promotional event in London, March 20, 2023. (AP)

Chunky bootmaker Dr. Martens is warning of a tough year ahead.

Dr. Martens shares plunged more than 30% Tuesday after the iconic British brand forecast wholesale revenue in the US, its largest market, would decline by double-digits compared with last year.

Trading in Dr. Martens stock was temporarily halted on the London Stock Exchange early Tuesday as it sank to a record-low 0.64 pounds, according to FactSet.

That could translate into a sizeable hit to profits, with the company pointing to a base projected impact of 20 million pounds ($24.9 million) on pretax earnings year-over-year. In-season orders from wholesale customers could help ease US revenue expectations, the company noted, but those are difficult to predict.

Beyond weakening revenue, Dr. Martens anticipates other hefty expenses related to the company's employee retention plans as well as single-digit inflation in its cost base. Unlike years past, the brand does not plan to increase prices to offset those costs.

Dr. Martens also announced a leadership shakeup on Tuesday. After six years at the helm of the company, CEO Kenny Wilson will step down. Ije Nwokorie, Dr. Martens’ chief brand officer, will take his place before the end of the current fiscal year.

In a prepared statement regarding 2025's financial outlook, Wilson acknowledged the challenges ahead, saying that Dr. Martens is focused on its plans to "reignite boots demand, particularly in the USA.”

Still, Wilson said that the brand “remains strong.” Dr. Martens said it saw a pick-up in direct to consumer growth during the fourth quarter.

Shares for Dr. Marten are down more than 56% over the last 12 months, per FactSet.


LVMH's First Quarter Sales Growth Slips to 3% on Luxury Slowdown

A logo of Louis Vuitton is displayed on a Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, March 30, 2024. (Reuters)
A logo of Louis Vuitton is displayed on a Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, March 30, 2024. (Reuters)
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LVMH's First Quarter Sales Growth Slips to 3% on Luxury Slowdown

A logo of Louis Vuitton is displayed on a Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, March 30, 2024. (Reuters)
A logo of Louis Vuitton is displayed on a Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, March 30, 2024. (Reuters)

LVMH reported a 3% rise in first quarter sales on Tuesday, marking a slowdown as rising prices prompted more shoppers who aspire to own its handbags and other luxury goods to hold back on splashing out thousands of dollars.

The slower quarterly sales growth reflected comparisons with the same period in 2023, when sales were boosted by the lifting of COVID-19 curbs in LVMH's key market of mainland China and comes amid worries about a prolonged global slowdown which has knocked luxury companies' shares over the past year.

The world's largest luxury group, owner of Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. and Bulgari, said sales for the quarter ending in March were up 3% year-on-year on an organic basis to 20.69 billion euros ($22 billion), matching analyst expectations.

LVMH, which is Europe's second-largest listed company and worth nearly 400 billion euros, is the first luxury goods maker to report quarterly earnings, setting the tone as worries grow about demand in China, the world's No. 2 economy.

Gucci-owner Kering last month issued a surprise warning that first quarter sales would slump 10%, with sharp declines in Asia, casting uncertainty for the sector's outlook.

Sales at LVMH's fashion and leather goods division, which includes Louis Vuitton and Dior, climbed 2%, also matching expectations.

Sales in the division, which sells small Lady Dior handbags priced at 5,400 euros and roomy Louis Vuitton Speedy bags for 10,000 euros, had risen by 9% year-on-year the previous quarter.

Chief Financial Officer Jean-Jacques Guiony told journalists that LVMH was "quite happy" with demand from Chinese shoppers.

He said purchases of Louis Vuitton products by Chinese buyers globally grew by around 10%, with an increasing proportion taking place outside mainland China as they resume travelling, particularly in Japan and to some extent in Europe.

LVMH, a conglomerate spanning spirits, jewellery, cosmetics and fashion which is regarded as a bellwether for the wider luxury goods industry, does not give a breakdown for its brands.


AI-Generated Fashion Models Could Bring More Diversity to the Industry - Or Leave It with Less

A model presents a creation by Gefferson Vila Nova during the Sao Paulo Fashion Week 2024 (SPFW) at the Iguatemi shopping mall in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 13 April 2024. SPFW continues through 14 April with a total of 27 shows. (EPA)
A model presents a creation by Gefferson Vila Nova during the Sao Paulo Fashion Week 2024 (SPFW) at the Iguatemi shopping mall in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 13 April 2024. SPFW continues through 14 April with a total of 27 shows. (EPA)
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AI-Generated Fashion Models Could Bring More Diversity to the Industry - Or Leave It with Less

A model presents a creation by Gefferson Vila Nova during the Sao Paulo Fashion Week 2024 (SPFW) at the Iguatemi shopping mall in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 13 April 2024. SPFW continues through 14 April with a total of 27 shows. (EPA)
A model presents a creation by Gefferson Vila Nova during the Sao Paulo Fashion Week 2024 (SPFW) at the Iguatemi shopping mall in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 13 April 2024. SPFW continues through 14 April with a total of 27 shows. (EPA)

London-based model Alexsandrah has a twin, but not in the way you’d expect: Her counterpart is made of pixels instead of flesh and blood.

The virtual twin was generated by artificial intelligence and has already appeared as a stand-in for the real-life Alexsandrah in a photo shoot. Alexsandrah, who goes by her first name professionally, in turn receives credit and compensation whenever the AI version of herself gets used — just like a human model.

Alexsandrah says she and her alter-ego mirror each other “even down to the baby hairs.” And it is yet another example of how AI is transforming creative industries — and the way humans may or may not be compensated.

Proponents say the growing use of AI in fashion modeling showcases diversity in all shapes and sizes, allowing consumers to make more tailored purchase decisions that in turn reduces fashion waste from product returns. And digital modeling saves money for companies and creates opportunities for people who want to work with the technology.

But critics raise concerns that digital models may push human models — and other professionals like makeup artists and photographers — out of a job. Unsuspecting consumers could also be fooled into thinking AI models are real, and companies could claim credit for fulfilling diversity commitments without employing actual humans.

“Fashion is exclusive, with limited opportunities for people of color to break in,” said Sara Ziff, a former fashion model and founder of the Model Alliance, a nonprofit aiming to advance workers’ rights in the fashion industry. “I think the use of AI to distort racial representation and marginalize actual models of color reveals this troubling gap between the industry’s declared intentions and their real actions.”

Women of color in particular have long faced higher barriers to entry in modeling and AI could upend some of the gains they've made. Data suggests that women are more likely to work in occupations in which the technology could be applied, and are more at risk of displacement than men.

In March 2023, iconic denim brand Levi Strauss & Co. announced that it would be testing AI-generated models produced by Amsterdam-based company Lalaland.ai to add a wider range of body types and underrepresented demographics on its website. But after receiving widespread backlash, Levi clarified that it was not pulling back on its plans for live photo shoots, the use of live models or its commitment to working with diverse models.

“We do not see this (AI) pilot as a means to advance diversity or as a substitute for the real action that must be taken to deliver on our diversity, equity and inclusion goals and it should not have been portrayed as such,” Levi said in its statement at the time.

The company last month said that it has no plans to scale the AI program.

The Associated Press reached out to several other retailers to ask whether they use AI fashion models. Target, Kohl’s and fast-fashion giant Shein declined to comment; Temu did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, spokespeople for Nieman Marcus, H&M, Walmart and Macy's said their respective companies do not use AI models, although Walmart clarified that “suppliers may have a different approach to photography they provide for their products but we don’t have that information.”

Nonetheless, companies that generate AI models are finding a demand for the technology, including Lalaland.ai, which was co-founded by Michael Musandu after he was feeling frustrated by the absence of clothing models who looked like him.

“One model does not represent everyone that’s actually shopping and buying a product,” he said. “As a person of color, I felt this painfully myself.”

Musandu says his product is meant to supplement traditional photo shoots, not replace them. Instead of seeing one model, shoppers could see nine to 12 models using different size filters, which would enrich their shopping experience and help reduce product returns and fashion waste.

The technology is actually creating new jobs, since Lalaland.ai pays humans to train its algorithms, Musandu said.

And if brands “are serious about inclusion efforts, they will continue to hire these models of color,” he added.

London-based model Alexsandrah, who is Black, says her digital counterpart has helped her distinguish herself in the fashion industry. In fact, the real-life Alexsandrah has even stood in for a Black computer-generated model named Shudu, created by Cameron Wilson, a former fashion photographer turned CEO of The Diigitals, a UK-based digital modeling agency.

Wilson, who is white, designed Shudu in 2017, described on Instagram as the “The World’s First Digital Supermodel.” But critics at the time accused Wilson of cultural appropriation and digital Blackface.

Wilson took the experience as a lesson and transformed The Diigitals to make sure Shudu — who has been booked by Louis Vuitton and BMW — didn’t take away opportunities but instead opened possibilities for women of color. Alexsandrah, for instance, has modeled in-person as Shudu for Vogue Australia, and writer Ama Badu came up with Shudu’s backstory and portrays her voice for interviews.

Alexsandrah said she is “extremely proud” of her work with The Diigitals, which created her own AI twin: “It’s something that even when we are no longer here, the future generations can look back at and be like, ‘These are the pioneers.’”

But for Yve Edmond, a New York City area-based model who works with major retailers to check the fit of clothing before it's sold to consumers, the rise of AI in fashion modeling feels more insidious.

Edmond worries modeling agencies and companies are taking advantage of models, who are generally independent contractors afforded few labor protections in the US, by using their photos to train AI systems without their consent or compensation.

She described one incident in which a client asked to photograph Edmond moving her arms, squatting and walking for “research" purposes. Edmond refused and later felt swindled — her modeling agency had told her she was being booked for a fitting, not to build an avatar.

“This is a complete violation,” she said. “It was really disappointing for me.”

But absent AI regulations, it’s up to companies to be transparent and ethical about deploying AI technology. And Ziff, the founder of the Model Alliance, likens the current lack of legal protections for fashion workers to “the Wild West.”

That's why the Model Alliance is pushing for legislation like the one being considered in New York state, in which a provision of the Fashion Workers Act would require management companies and brands to obtain models’ clear written consent to create or use a model’s digital replica; specify the amount and duration of compensation, and prohibit altering or manipulating models’ digital replica without consent.

Alexsandrah says that with ethical use and the right legal regulations, AI might open up doors for more models of color like herself. She has let her clients know that she has an AI replica, and she funnels any inquires for its use through Wilson, who she describes as "somebody that I know, love, trust and is my friend.” Wilson says they make sure any compensation for Alexsandrah's AI is comparable to what she would make in-person.

Edmond, however, is more of a purist: “We have this amazing Earth that we’re living on. And you have a person of every shade, every height, every size. Why not find that person and compensate that person?”