What does the future of the Fashion Industry look like?

Each year, the competition among Fashion and Textiles students intensifies as they strive to produce the most captivating content for the Fashion and Textiles blog. This year, Rebecca Tombs, a Textile Design student, won the crown for writing the piece below as part of their textiles in contemporary practice module. Students were challenged to write about a sector of the textile industry and discuss key drivers dictating and driving new innovations within the field. 

Human creativity helps us to respond to the world around us from our individual experiences, emotions, thoughts, knowledge and skills. Surface Pattern Designers use their creativity to create unique designs that are seen in many of our homes on wallpaper, upholstery and apparel fabric.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a brand-new technology that is said to have the ‘ability to perform cognitive functions associated with human minds. It has generated extensive media coverage and no doubt raised concerns among those in the creative world. Although it could lead to many exciting possibilities, it makes us question the future of textiles and how the life of a Surface Pattern Designer (SPD) will be affected.

Technology has played a crucial part in developing the modern world and started as early as the 18th century during the Industrial Revolution. Roller printing was developed in the 1780’s and allowed cloth to be printed continuously on a large scale at speed. By 1860 eight colours could be printed simultaneously. At first, many of the new technological advancements weren’t widely accepted, such as William Morris who attempted to reverse the trend. However, as techniques continued to improve and the range of fabrics that could be printed successfully, designers soon started to recognise its potential. Similarly, AI can create patterns quickly using text or image prompts as its brief. So, could AI also be widely accepted in years to come?

‘PatternedAI’ is an example of software accessible to anyone and is said to create a professional and seamless pattern ready for commercial use. After using the software, myself, it is clear that AI is lacking precision, colour and accuracy. As shown in Figure 3, some dogs on the pattern have 5 legs which suggests that results aren’t always satisfactory and therefore, rely on thorough and accurate prompts.

Cartoon foxes in a snowy forest and cartoon dogs in a snowy forest with a field nearby

It’s worrying for many designers. Companies may choose to use AI rather than hiring them as it is able to do the design work at a fraction of the cost. With the current cost of living crisis situation, if a buisiness can save money, it will. However, with sustainability being the focus of most Textiles companies should AI be used to this advantage instead? The industry has been criticised as one of the biggest polluters with an estimated 92 million tonnes of waste. As AI is able to analyse large quantities of data, then it can help to predict future demands, stop wastage and make a sustainable future.

Lastly, I feel that for an SPD building a relationship with a client is one of the most important roles of the creative process. From initial research, developing motifs, finding colour palettes, adjusting scale and eventually composing the pattern, communication is at the centre of it all. This allows designers to tell a meaningful story through the work they create which cannot be fully replicated by AI. It is unimaginable to see how a computer can replace the process of a designer.

Although AI is newly found, it is here to stay. This may be through different job roles such as the designing, manufacturing or forecasting to optimise Textile production. History has shown us that industries are constantly going through changes and there is no way of stopping the development of new technology. It’s advantages in helping predict market demands is beneficial to our environment by reducing waste during manufacturing. There is no doubt that in the next few years we will see a divide in companies that want a cheap and quick production versus those who understand the importance of creativity and processes involved in the industry.

Chloe Frost was the industry judge who selected Rebecca Tombs as the winner. Chloe is a 2014 Textile Design Alumni and is now the current Trends Editor for Colour and Materials at the trends forecasting company, Stylus. 



Pang, A. (2023) Revolutionising the Fashion Industry through AI. Optimising Business Processes and Sustainability, 20(1). Available at: https://medium.com/warwick-artificial-intelligence/revolutionising-the-fashion-industry-through-ai-optimising-business-processes-and-sustainability-9faef9615750#:~:text=With%20AI%2C%20the%20company%20can,UV%20protection%2C%20and%20stretch%20recovery. [Accessed 17th October 2023].


Frey, T. (2023) Futurist Speaker. The Difference Between Human Creativity and Generative Ai Creativity. [blog] 27 April. Available at: https://futuristspeaker.com/artificial-intelligence/the-difference-between-human-creativity-and-generative-ai-creativity/ [Accessed 2nd October].

Miller, C. (2023) Craft Industry Alliance. A Quick Start Guide to Surface Pattern Design [blog] 25 July. Available at: https://craftindustryalliance.org/a-quick-start-guide-to-surface-pattern-design/ [Accessed 25th September 2023]. 

-       Key skills needed to become a successful Surface Pattern Designer

Milton, L. (2023) Sustainably Chic. How AI is making the Fashion Industry more sustainable. [blog] 23 May. Available at: https://www.sustainably-chic.com/blog/how-ai-is-making-the-fashion-industry-more-sustainable [Accessed 15th October 2023].

Vilkman, H. (2023) Heidi Vilkman. AI and Surface Pattern Design. [blog] 18 May. Available at: https://www.heidivilkman.com/post/ai-and-surface-pattern-design [Accessed 25th September 2023].

-       Insightful blog discussing how Artificial Intelligence could impact Textile Design.

Watts, T. (2023) Readers’ Blog. The Role of Technology In The Future And Its Impact on Society. [blog] 14 April. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/amitosh/the-role-of-technology-in-the-future-and-its-impact-on-society-52565/ [Accessed 15th October 2023]. 

Magazine article:

Babich, N., Kuznetsov, G. (2023) How AI Technology will Transform Design. Smashing Magazine, May, pp. 1. Available at: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2023/03/ai-technology-transform-design/#:~:text=Instead%20of%20hiring%20a%20human,to%20generate%20artwork%20using%20AI. [Accessed 19th October 2023].

Social Media Posts:

Kaushik, U. (2023) Will AI Replace the Designers? LinkedIn, 31 March. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ai-replace-designers-urvashi-kaushik-#:~:text=Conclusion-,AI%20can%20be%20a%20valuable%20tool%20for%20designers%2C%20allowing%20them,than%20a%20replacement%20for%20it. [Accessed 28th September 2023]. 

-       Understanding of what AI is and how it can be used within design includes interesting comments made by the public.

Makin, S. (2023) Will AI replace Graphic Designers? LinkedIn, 14 April. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ai-replace-graphic-designers-sean-makin [Accessed 28th September 2023]. 


McKinsey & Company (2023) What is AI? Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/mckinsey-explainers/what-is-ai#/ [Accessed 28th September 2023]. 

-       In depth guide as to what AI is and how it works. 

BBC (2020) Why clothes are so hard to recycle. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200710-why-clothes-are-so-hard-to-recycle [Accessed 15th October 2023].

PatternedAI (2023) Generate Patterns. Available at: https://www.patterned.ai/dashboard?method=text [Accessed 2nd October 2023].

-       New Artificial Intelligence website used to generate repeat pattern’s.

Jenny Bova (2023) Artificial Intelligence in Art & Design. Available at: https://jennybova.com/blogs/in-the-studio/artificial-intelligence-and-the-artist [ Accessed 15th October 2023].

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