Published 8th February 2017
The musician and entrepreneur encouraged fashion brands to embrace advancing technologies at a talk in London on the 6th February.
British Fashion Council Trust’s co-chair, Tania Fares, hosted the talk with Will.i.am and Farfetch CEO José Neves at Sotheby’s in Mayfair. The talk covered how advancements in technology are disrupting the fashion industry, WWD reported.
“It’s 2017, and the new thing is called AI,” he said. “And it’s more powerful than the internet, because the internet didn’t think, the internet didn’t know you. So that shift is about to happen again, where there is a new type of way that we connect and get information. It’s about to enter society and it knows a lot. It’s coming and it’s going to be awesome. Are you a contributor? Are you creating and helping solve problems? Or are you just going to stay here? Those designers and those companies need to hire AI scientists ASAP or else you won’t be part of the future.”
He took the opportunity to encourage young designers to actively engage with technology or the people working with it. “If I was a fashion designer right now and if you’re not coding, collaborate with a developer from the beginning,” he said. “And you will be amazing. When I say technologists, it’s not just the coders but folks that are working with new types of materials, scientists. Right now is the time to create, to invent, not innovate, you need to invent right now.”
Will.i.am is no stranger to the partnering of style and technology. He has previously launched wireless I.am EPs headphones called Buttons in September with Farfetch. In 2015, he partnered with Gucci on a smartwatch that allowed users to take selfies and conduct video chats, and worked with André Leon Talley on a dial fashion bracelet, similar to a smartwatch.
He warned that fashion needs invention in order to stop tech giants like Google becoming ‘fashion’.
“Tech will be fashion. Tech is the music platform, not Universal. Don’t let that happen to fashion. Who should you be competing with? All of fashion should be competing with Apple and Google — they hire the best. Poach the minds from that world to this world, because guess what, they’re going to poach this world.”
“Don’t just think about the clothes,” he said, naming data the new currency. “Think about designing a new platform or a new experience. So when you walk into the store, the store should know what I’m looking for. It should know before you get to the store. In order to fix it you have to dream and see the problems. It’s about services and that service is going to be about algorithms and it’s going to be intelligent.”
The singer stated that if he were 18 again he would consider a career change. “If I wanted to do fashion I’d be doing computer science” he said. “Because you can make the machine be the musician and you can make the machine design the closet. That’s the power of computer science. It’s the most amazing time to be creative if you have that as your tool.”