Selkie founder defends use of AI in new dress collection amid backlash


When the selkie, The fashion brand, viral on Instagram and TikTok for its frothy, extravagant dresses, has announced a new collection, to generally positive reception. Known for its size inclusivity – its sizes range from XXS to 6X – and for being owned and founded by an independent artist who is outspoken about fair pay and sustainability in fashion, Selkie is branded as ethically sourced online. Considered one of the “good” brands. ,

of brand Upcoming Valentine's Day Drop was inspired by vintage greeting cards, and included saccharine images of puppies surrounded by roses, or humorous fluffy kittens painted against pastel backgrounds. Printed on sweaters and bow-adorned dresses, the collection was meant to be a nostalgic, cheeky nod to romance. This was also designed using an AI image generator mid journey,

“I have a huge library of very old art from the 1800s and 1900s, and this is a great tool for making art better,” Kimberly Gordon, founder of Selkie, told TechCrunch. “I can layer paint on top of the art I produce using it. I think the art is fun, and I think it's cheeky, and it has little details like an extra toe. Five years from now, this sweater is going to be a great thing because it will represent the beginning of a whole new world. “An extra toe represents where we are starting from.”

But when the brand announced that the collection was designed using generic AI, the backlash was immediate. Selkie addressed the use of AI in art in an Instagram comment under the drop announcement, noting that Gordon felt it was “important to learn this new medium and how it can work for Selkie as a brand Or can't.”

The brand's Instagram comments flooded with criticism. One described the use of AI as a “slap in the face” to artists and expressed disappointment that a brand was selling at such a high price ($249 for a viral polyester puff minidress and $1,500 for a made-to-order silk bridal gown). . ) Only a human artist will not be assigned to design the graphics for the collection. Another user simply commented, “The logic of 'I'm an artist and I love AI!' Very strange.” One user questioned why the brand chose to use generative AI, given the “huge number” of stock images and vintage artwork that is not copyrighted, and “similar in style”.

“Why choose a highly controversial and ethically questionable option when equally cost-effective and more ethical alternatives are widely available?” The user continued. “If you actually did the research on AI that you claim to do, you also understand that it is a technology that requires the theft and exploitation of workers in order to function.”

Gordon said she spends about a week designing the collections, but they take months to a year to develop and create before actually selling them online. In the year since they finalized the design for this drop, public opinion about AI art has changed significantly.

As generic AI tools become more sophisticated, the use of AI in art is also becoming increasingly polarized. Some artists, like Gordon, who designed the selkie patterns themselves using a mix of royalty-free clip art, public domain painting, digital illustration and Photoshop collaging, see AI image generators as a tool. Gordon compares it to photography: It's new now, but future generations may accept it as another art medium. However, there are many artists vociferously opposed The use of generic AI in art.

Their concerns are twofold – one, artists lose opportunities for cheap, fast AI image generators, and two, many generators have been trained on copyrighted images pulled from the Internet without the artists' consent. Pushback against generative AI Spans all creative industries, not just in the visual arts. Musicians are speaking out against its use deepfake coverActors are questioning whether SAG-AFTRA's new contract Adequately controls entertainment and even AI fanfiction writer Measures are being taken to prevent his work being used to train AI models.

Of course, not all generic AI is exploitable; As a VFX tool, it's extremely useful for enhancing animations, from creating more realistic flames in Pixar's “Elemental” to visualizing complex scenes in HBO's “The Last of Us.” There are plenty of examples of morally bankrupt applications of generic AI. Make Deepfake revenge pornFor example, or Producing “diverse models” instead of hiring actual people of color Objectively horrifying. But much of the generic AI debate settles in an ethical gray area, where the parameters of exploitation are less defined.

In the case of Selkie, Gordon solely designs all of the graphics that appear on Selkie's clothing. If someone else designs them, she makes it clear that it is a collaboration with another artist. His designs typically include digital watercolor paintings, stock images, and collage of “old art” that is no longer copyrighted. Many of his popular designs incorporate motifs from famous works of art, such as Van Gogh's “Starry Night” and Monet's “Water Lilies”, which he uses as a base to create a unique, but still recognizable pattern. Uses in. When she alters and builds on pre-existing work, it is printed on gauze and used to create raised fabrics and frilly furnishings.

Gordon argued that the Valentine's Day drop is no different, except that it used generated images as a design basis rather than public domain artwork. The patterns he's created for this collection are just as transformative as those he's designed for previous drops, he said, and include just as much of the same transformative, original illustration and “creative eye.”

“I say it's art. This is the future of art and as long as an artist is using it, it's similar to what we're doing with clip art,” Gordon said. “I think it's very similar, except it gives a lot more power to artists and allows us to compete in a world where big business owns this structure.”

Gordon compared his use of generative AI to the use of companies that have replaced employed artists with AI image generators. She explained that she could not “replace the artists”, as she is the brand's only in-house artist, and the hefty price Selkie charges for each ruffled dress is too high for material and labor costs. If clothes are cheap, he said, it's usually because the textile workers who make them aren't paid fairly. Gordon said that although she is paid as a “business owner”, she does not include her own labor as a designer in her salary to cut overhead costs.

Gordon also noted that when he used Midjourney to create the base image he did not use any other artist's name or work as cues. She turned to AI for efficiency – she said it was a “great brainstorming tool” for visualizing what she wanted the collection to look like – and for fear of being left behind. Artists face increasing pressure to adopt new technology, she said, and she wants to be at the forefront.

“I am not using AI models. I'm just using AI as a tool where I would normally do this. I'm not trying to take away anyone's job in my own company,'' she said. “Instead I'm using it as a way for myself to be efficient. If I were using a lot of artists to create my prints, and then suddenly using AI, I would definitely be moving away from them. How can I get away from myself?”

It's this nuance that isn't always reflected in conversations about art and AI. Gordon owns a popular, but relatively small, fashion brand, which she uses as a means to monetize her artwork. Could she have hired another artist to paint the oil paintings of puppies and kittens in love? Yes. Is it possible that the images generated by plain, old Valentine's Day cards may have influenced the work of a living artist? Unclear, but so far, no one has publicly accused Selkie of copying their art For new collection. Gordon's use of AI generated images is not as serious as other big fashion brands, but more sanctimonious critics argue that any use of AI art perpetuates harm against the artists.

Gordon, for one, said she has heard the criticism and doesn't plan to use AI generated images in future Selkie collections. He believes there is a lack of regulation when it comes to generative AI, and suggested that artists receive some type of payment every time their name or work is used in signs. But she plans to continue experimenting with it in her personal art, and has maintained her stance that at the end of the day, it is just another medium to work with.

“Maybe the way I did it and this way is not the right way, but I don't agree with it [AI] It's a bad thing,” Gordon said. “I think it's technological progress. And it's neither good nor bad. It's just the way of life.”