“MONA: The world’s first Artificial Intelligence Fashion Designer”
From the basic headline, I thought this was yet another generative design project. And, indeed, the basic technology is simply evolutionary programming, which has been done since we had computers. Contrary to their claims, this is not even close to the first such design system.
But this is much, much clever than that. Or, maybe it is a great parody or even a con job. I can’t tell for sure.
This, they say, is the “boldest experiment in fashion history”. Well, it’s bold, that’s for sure.
Fashion is much more than design, it is the creation of desire, and a language for expressing personal identity. It must have a story, and the story must be about mystery and, above all, power.
So the pedestrian, trivial, and totally inhuman process of random generation of visual effects by computer must be dressed up in a sexy narrative, whispering in your ear, just for you and you alone.
And boy, oh, boy, do these folks know how to do that!
Mystery number one: there is no explanation of the people or organization behind “Mona”, the supposed Artificial Intelligence that creates the fashion.
They tell us that fashion is supposed to be individual, so all that mass-produced stuff is just dreck. (Obviously they aren’t of the school that thinks of fashion as part of your social identity, linking you to your friends, family, and community.) You need individualized clothing, they say, and all those dinosaurs haven’t a clue. The algorithms of Mona create nothing but one-of-a-kind designs.
But, wait! There’s more!
The evolutionary algorithms search the internet for visual inspiration (does this mean they appropriate popular visual images?) and the algorithm is hooked into feedback from the sales, so that patterns that are purchased are more likely to breed in the future. In this way Mona “learns” what people like or at least are willing to buy. (Just like the worst human designers.)
The Mona team goes all out to check off technically fashionable boxes.
Mona’s designs are cryptographically recorded on the Bitcoin blockchain. This technology assures that you can prove the authenticity of your bespoke clothing. Certificates of authenticity on the Bitcoin blockchain are certainly the flavor of the month.
Furthermore, the clothing is sold for Bitcoin, not for that trashy fiat currency. We are hip, tech savvy, and Bitcoin users! There is some kind of pricing algorithm, too, but it isn’t clearly explained.
Some of the proceeds are donated to a charity, so this makes it “socially responsible” consuming, right?
Even better, the clothing is only sold on the dark web. You have to “ask permission” and solve puzzles to even see examples or try to buy it! If it has a velvet rope around it, it must be the cool place, huh?
There is no good reason that I can see for this secrecy, but jumping through all these hoops surely adds mystery and exclusivity. Normal, square society is happy to buy clothing via the web, but really hip people hack their way through the painful details of Tor and Bitcoin in order to secretly and anonymously buy stuff on the dark web.
Anonymously buy stuff to show off their own hipness. Secret clothing that you openly wear, publicly post to the blockchain, and proudly boast about. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
This product is so much more than just clothes! It’s a participatory narrative, in which you are invited to play the role of sophisticated, sexy, tech savvy, fashionista. Part of a secret club. As they put it in their video, “a badge of intellectual fellowship”!
Buzzword Scorecard Recap:
- Personalized Product: check
- Evolutionary Algorithm/Automated Learning: check
- Certificate of Authenticity on the Blockchain: check
- Bitcoin only: check
- “Socially conscious” tithing: check
- Dark web only (extra credit!): check