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How Is AI Altering the Current Face of Fashion and Beauty?

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We’re pretty sure you’ve noticed the change, too.

Since January 2023, fashion, beauty and lifestyle images have been peppered with otherworldly visuals and impossible realities: limbs are longer and leaner, skin is dewier and puffier, colour palettes are luminous and more saturated. The aesthetics are perfectly on trend and seriously stunning. There is definitely a heightened sense of beauty at work here.

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Makeup artist Marika D’Auteuil’s vision of beauty using Midjourney

What is happening?

Well, what is happening is that this latest batch of AI tools has become much more sophisticated in its rendering of artificial fashion photoshoots and beauty imagery. It’s also accessible to most.

Midjourney, which uses text descriptions to construct AI-generated images that almost look like real photographs, is the most widely used software by professional photographers and makeup artists who are making the leap into computer-generated imagery. And even Canva, the popular app to create graphic design content for social media, has just been upgraded with an AI tool. Just tap in your prompt and you’re ready to go.

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Canadian fashion photographer Chris Nicholls’ creative outlook with Generative AI

Well, sort of.

It actually takes a lot of trial and error to steer generative AI in the right direction in order to create an image that is palatable and resembles your own signature style, if you are a fashion photographer or a pro makeup artist. Translation: the images AI generates must go through a guided (and heavily curated) process meaning the artistic direction of a project is still spearheaded by human talent with years of experience in creating beautiful and memorable fashion and lifestyle imagery.

Fashion Beauty Runway spoke with fashion photographer Chris Nicholls and makeup artist Marika D’Auteuil (@LaPetiteVengeance on Instagram), two Canadian creators that are well-known artisans of beauty in fashion and makeup about the emergence of AI in their field, and what that potentially means for their craft.

While Chris has an extensive and impressive portfolio, having photographed some of the most famous models and people in the world, from Kate Moss, to Miley Cyrus, to Olivia Wilde over the last three decades, D’Auteuil’s work as an up-and-coming international makeup artist has propelled her on Instagram and made her a celebrity onto herself with more than 200,000 devoted followers.

Both creators have been toying with the text-to-image software in the last few months, and have been blown away by the possibilities. Although at times the process has been challenging because there is also a randomness factor that comes into play, since the software was trained using millions of images sourced from the Internet.

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Marika D’Auteuil creates complete landscape, fashion and beauty looks

The Fashion Photographer’s POV

Chris Nicholls says he’s always been interested in all types of imagery, from painting to illustration to photography. It’s basically part of the world he works in. “I’m just trying to stay ahead of the curve because I’ve been in the business for a very long time. It’s an interesting tool.”

The technology is advancing very rapidly, and you need to stay on trend. Whether that’s camera equipment or new lighting or, in this case, AI tools, to create new types of imagery. According to him, people who are extremely creative will maximize its potential, despite the pitfalls that currently come into play when you set out to create a new image.

True, despite the most precise prompts — the keywords used to generate an image with an AI tool — all the softwares spit out images that are often times not even remotely close to what the user has specified they wanted as a result.

“I equate it with trying a harness a toddler in a candy store. There’s some great stuff in there, but there are problems with the resolution, and trying to control the randomness factor. There are technical ways to steer it closer to your vision, but it’s complicated. Although the results are sometimes surprising, and people seem to like them.”

As for the fashion industry, Nicholls sees two things happening: Corporations are always looking for a financial edge, and AI-generated imagery now provides a wider assortment of tools. He sees it becoming like stock photography for Instagram and social media. It’s one step further than the filters.

“Content creators will have to adapt, for sure. People in the low end of the industry will lose their jobs. It’s already happening. I would also say the modelling industry has something to worry about.”

Levi’s has already announced it will start implementing the use of AI-generated clothing models later this year in a bid to diversify the iconic denim company’s online shopping experience. In theory, this sounds great. But what happens to more diverse human models when the pool of clients keeps shrinking?

“It will create other jobs,” he says. “But as a photographer I don’t want to only create images with AI. I want to interact with people and models and go on location. I still think there will be always be room for photography for that. Like event photography.”

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A virtual photoshoot signed Chris Nicholls

AI and the World of Makeup

Marika D’Auteuil, a well-know Quebec-based makeup artist and international educator, has been surfing the AI beauty creation wave with a vengeance ever since Midjourney became available. “My boyfriend showed me an AI-created image and I was instantly blown away.” The passionate and committed makeup magician has already created hundreds of images using AI as a creative tool she directs and sells some of them on Etsy. She started posting her best and most beautiful AI work on her @illusorybeauty Instagram account in December 2022 and has made quite a name for herself in the AI creators field.

The kicker in all this is that the agency that’s been representing her for her makeup looks on real models is now also showcasing her experience and talent in digital creations. And, by the way, the correct name for an AI image creator is synthographer. Remember that, since a new career path might come out of that.

Midjourney, Dall-E, and even the most basic AI-based illustration tool from Canva, have been trained to generate new images using millions of existing visuals created in real life by other artists and creators. How does she, as a creator, feel about using a tool like that?

“Using existing photos to stimulate anyone’s creativity is not new. Moodboards have been used in fashion and beauty shoots production for decades. Plus, the image that was used to train the AI no longer exists when you’re asking the software to generate something new.”

However, with MidJourney and other AI illustration tools, heavy editing is needed to produce the desired result. “When I have an idea, I can work on it up to six, eight hours at a time to generate about 400 images. Then I have to sift through them all, put them through Photoshop and then edit them. It depends on the photo, but there’s always something to correct. It’s not like I’m implementing a prompt and the AI spits out a perfect image instantly.”

Marika loves the technology because it permits her to totally unleash her creativity in impossible ways to do in real life. Like having a model whose hair is literally on fire. But like everything else that’s well made and striking, it demands real experience, talent, and time. “People are afraid of AI stealing their jobs, but it’s only a tool that’s there to help us, as creators, build new imagery that only existed in our minds up until now. It’s not going to be a geek that comes up with a new makeup campaign, but a real makeup artist who understands how makeup artistry really works.”

There’s nothing easy or automatic when it comes to creating beautiful imagery, in tune with the beauty and fashion zeitgeist. With brushes or pixels. AI or not…

Credit: Featured image by Marika D’Auteuil

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