AI will replace fashion models in 2023

This is how the fashion industry will be affected by AI


Sorry for the late edition today.

I think I now have found the format of the newsletter I like.

One deep dive a week without all the other bits and bobs.

You got a taste of that last week.

This week is similar.

In the last 7 days, something like 1200 new AI tools or technologies have been released into the World.

There is no chance in h**l I can keep up…

I am not even trying anymore.

Some technologies will emerge as winners, but industries will be disrupted and change due to AI.

And that is what I want to explore and share with you.

Other newsletters try to stay on top of the 1000s of new tools each month.

So if that’s your jam, you should sign up for one of them 😀 

Today, I am diving into the fashion industry.

Let’s get started!

This is how AI will replace jobs in the fashion industry

Let me ask you a question: How “real” are the images you see in fashion magazines?

Sure, a photographer shoots them, and there is a model.

Maybe he or she is a famous face too.

But the picture that ends up in the magazine, how real is it?

Let me ask the question differently…

How much have the pictures you see in magazines been photoshopped before publication?

A little extra color here.

A little removal of blemishes, spots, or birthmarks here.

A little bit longer legs, a little bit thinner waist.

The fashion industry is notorious for editing its models beyond recognition.

Are the images you see real?

How AI will change the fashion industry

Right now, in 2023, several AI technologies let you do one or more of these four things:

  1. Create/generate a face/person using AI - a person that does not exist.

  2. Create AI avatars that pose how you want or need them to do.

  3. Use a simple image of a piece of clothing and “dress up” an AI avatar with said clothing.

  4. Generate an image with any background, real or fake, and include a person or avatar from a different picture and merge them together perfectly.

This technology has existed for a few years but is quickly evolving.

Big fashion brands like H&M and European online fashion retailer Zalando are working on technology combining the above four elements into one, using AI technology.

I know you understand where I am going with this…

The current way of “doing fashion” is about to be seriously disrupted!

Fashion models will lose their job to AI

I found a very interesting article from 2021 in Vogue online where model and futurist Sinead Bovell wrote about how AI would take her job.

She talks about Shudu Gram, a striking model from South Africa.

She has been featured in several articles and appeared in various campaigns by international brands like BMW, Lexus, and Asus.

She has been touted as “one to watch” and a “new face” in fashion.


…she is not real!

She is a “digital supermodel.”

Looking at the image above, can you tell this is a digitally generated fashion model?

I sure can’t!

Want to see for yourself?

Back to my initial question: Are the images you see real?

If you saw the above image in one of the prominent fashion magazines and they did not inform you that the model was a “fake,” would you know AI generated it?

I am sure you are starting to understand how immensely AI will impact the fashion industry!

Will everyone in fashion lose their jobs to AI?

In no way, shape, or form will the status quo remain in fashion.

A fashion model costs a lot of money for a brand.

During a photo session, a model can shoot upwards of 50 outfits.

It requires a proper studio.

It requires one or more photographers.

Professional makeup.



Preppers (I have yet to learn what they are called, but someone needs to prepare the clothes and help take them off and put them on).

In short, a large team goes into a single photo shoot.

It costs a lot of money - and time.

When you look at what goes into a photo shoot and compare it to what an AI can do, I would claim that 80% or thereabout can be done by an AI, a computer, and a graphics designer - in a matter of minutes…

And the consumer will not see or know the difference!

The cost savings are astronomical.

Nobody needs to travel to the studio.

Nobody needs to do makeup.

Nobody needs to make sure the light is perfect.

Nobody needs to style the outfit.

All you really need is an average photographer to take pictures of the clothes up against the wall or flat lying on a surface.


Import to the computer.

Feed it to the AI.


10 seconds later, you have your model doing 50 different poses in 50 locations wearing that exact dress.

Perfect light.

Perfect makeup.

Perfect hair.

Perfect legs.

Perfect waist.

Just the way the editor wants it.


What about diversity?

Need a model that is Caucasian?




How about a model which is chubby?

Need bigger boobs?


Big ass?

Small ass?

Medium ass?

5.7 feet tall?

6.3 feet tall?


Space between the front teeth?




Blue eyes?

Brown eyes?

All of this is just a few settings away on the computer!

It is easy to see that AI will replace models, photographers, make-up artists, stylists, and everyone involved in a traditional fashion shoot.

Sure, the AI models cannot replace the catwalk models.

But doing a runway show is limited to a few.

There are thousands of models around the globe.

Possibly millions…

And they are not only on the runway.

Imagine if North Face or Patagonia wants a shoot with a family of four for their new line of outdoor jackets.

Today we need to send a man, a woman, two children, and their parents to a mountain for a day or two or three.

Let's not forget the photographer(s), the stylist(s), the makeup artist(s), the assistants, etc.





Do we need all of this if AI can generate all the needed images in seconds on a computer?

Will people want AI-generated models?

We will see some resistance to this shift, I’m sure.

Brands will want to be authentic and ethical.

But I already see AI models sold as “green” and “sustainable” because it reduces the need for transport between home and studio, flying to exotic locations, or driving to the mountains.

When someone wants to sell you something bad, they will always promote the positive sides to divert attention away from the negatives…

I would not be surprised to see some digital model agencies becoming more prominent and branding themselves as THE green and sustainable modeling agency.

After all, “green” and “sustainable” is all the rage these days… (but let’s skip the politics).

Is AI the Kodak situation for the modeling industry?

I will assume you know about Kodak or at least what it used to be.

And if you do, you also know they are no longer around (not the old/original one, anyways).

From a global market share of around 80%+ in the photography market to bankruptcy in 2012.

Kodak is used as a case study in many business schools worldwide on how changing market conditions and failing to change strategy accordingly can end up in disaster for your business.

Kodak sat on its throne with its cameras and physical film and basically ignored the emerging digital technology and changing marketplace.

Today we all have extremely powerful cameras in our pockets…

They are called Samsung or Apple or Huawei.

And those who actually use a regular camera mostly use a Sony or a Canon.

Not a Kodak.

So how is this related to the fashion industry?

As soon as a fashion house, magazine, or retailer starts utilizing digital models, the rest will be forced to follow.

Doing it the new way is fast and cheap.

The old way is slow and expensive.

The competitive landscape will dictate the market conditions, and the ones resisting will basically be left in the dust…

The casualties will be the models, the photographers, the make-up artists, the stylists, and a host of other support staff.

What about celebrities and supermodels?

I believe that there will still be real models, “real faces,” etc.

However, they will be fewer, and it will be harder to become a model.

But for celebrities and Hollywood stars, AI probably means a lot more money.

They will soon be able to license their face (and body) to a brand without needing to do much work.

All they really need to do - once - is to get a body scan and a few headshots.

And just like that, they have a digital toolkit ready.

The brand and the celebrity sign an agreement, the celebrity sends over the digital toolkit, and in a manner of minutes, they can have Kim Kardashian strike a pose in front of the Sydney Opera House in a Valentino’s with Jimmy Choos on her feet and a diamond Patek Philippe on her wrist.

I guess “fast fashion” is about to get a whole new meaning…

What are the positive sides of AI in the fashion industry

I could have approached this story more positively, touting the cost savings for the fashion industry, the magazines, and the retailers.

And while all this is true, that only positively impacts the few.

For the thousands or millions of models and support staff, this is a poor development.

From a purely capitalistic perspective, this is hugely positive.

AI offers enormous efficiencies and costs savings.

It allows magazines, brands, and shops to move faster and do more in a shorter time with fewer people.

And while this industry will suffer greatly in the long term, I think it, in the shorter term, will have a positive impact on the smaller companies, the “mom and pop” style e-commerce stores which cannot afford a proper fashion shoot with models.

Now small retailers can level up their online appearance cheaply and effectively with AI models wearing their clothes or products.

No more badly lit iPhone pictures of your sister and brother wearing your latest t-shirt designs.

Your Shopify store is about to be rejuvenated with fresh and perfectly lit product photography showcased with perfectly curved models in all the skin colors of the world, posing how and where you want them - without a single complaint or delay.

It might even be a big opportunity for someone to take advantage of the advancing technology and create a fashion brand from scratch utilizing all the AI tools out there.

I know this is a good idea because I know someone doing exactly that…

Another use case of digital models is rapid product development and testing of new styles.

Imagine having your clothes going straight from the design program on your computer onto a “real” model, posing, or walking in the streets of Amsterdam to showcase how they would look in real life.

Another use case is user testing or market research before your product goes into production.

Now you will have a “real life” picture(s) on your hand, and your customers, team, etc. can vote on what looks the best - even pre-order before you send it to production.

Couple this with “just in time” production, something Inditex, the world's largest clothing retailer (Zara, Massomo Dutti, and more), are expert on.

With AI they can develop even faster and test the models virtually before production.

They can develop, test, produce, and have their products in the shops in a few weeks or less.

But what about local variables in taste?

Going back to the test aspects, they can now design various styles and colors, put them on AI models, do research in the various markets, and produce according to that feedback.

Ending notes

I think it is easy to see that the fashion industry is going to be impacted a lot by AI.

The models, in particular.

The brands and retailers will be able to bring out cost savings and scale in a way that was previously impossible.

The introduction of AI will bring a lot of productivity gains in many industries.

This week's newsletter is another example of this.

But while this AI revolution is rolling over us, many entrepreneurs stand to gain a lot from this as long as they manage to be in front of the wave.

The same goes for established businesses if they can be agile and move fast.

There will be a big societal and business shift due to AI.

Those who manage to position themselves will benefit greatly.

In a year or two, we will know the winners and losers…

Now over to you!

What do you think?

Are you surprised that the modeling industry will be so affected by AI?

Do you think I am wrong?

If you have any questions about AI or any feedback, just hit reply or tweet me @thomassorheim 

What do you call a fashion model who's also an electrician?
A current trendsetter!

This is not the end. It is where the fun begins!


or to participate.