Within the magazine Weapons of Reason, the section that interested me the most was the chapter called Processes and Threads, exploring the fashion industry and artificial intelligence (AI). The garment industry is already packed full of ethical issues, with fashion still exploiting human rights. However development in AI would wipe out the workforce completely, leaving a new set of moral dilemmas.
Fully automated manufacturing is now a fully viable option with even complex garment production like jeans being ready for market soon. For every eight hours the ‘sewbot’ operates they create double the quantity of a manual worker. The benefit of this I feel is that clothing could be made to order and also would cut the order-to-delivery costs dramatically. This will satisfy the on-demand society that we operate in. However, brands will soon lose their personal touch and jobs will be lost overnight, especially the lower-paid roles. No one will have to do those undesirable tasks, but unemployment levels will rise.
Having said this, I do feel that a more localised future will be the way forward where production times could decrease by 70%. Moving the supply chain to an automated facility near the company’s target consumer, brands can reduce the transportation costs and products will reach consumers quicker. By reaching them quicker, I feel that brands would benefit from creating smaller collections to cater for shorter lived trends, working to reduce the amount of waste and emissions. A localised supply chain would mean that stock would not need to be marked down or burnt when not sold within the seasons.
Although automatic brings risk, I believe that it could be the answer to reduce the impacts of the fashion industry and mitigate much of the environmental and societal damage caused by the current model.