The massive scale and granularity of personalisation in online fashion retail will be impossible to manage without the help of artificial intelligence. But what does it mean for sustainability? John Mowbray talks to Arti Zeighami, head of AI and analytics at H&M.

Although the use of artificial intelligence in the fashion sector often conjures up dystopian images of robots stitching clothing, while garment workers are shown the factory door, the fact is this level of application doesn’t exist in today’s textile supply chains – not yet anyway. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in retail is gaining some serious traction because in theory at least, it can be a game-changing asset that improves both the bottom line, while at the same time vastly reducing supply chain footprints.

Consider this: if a global fashion retailer could accurately match supply with demand, cutting out the need to make stuff that does not sell, the savings in cost, inventory and environmental impacts could be astronomical. This is one of the goals of the growing AI team at H&M, which recently took on board the controversial data scientist Chris Wiley, the main whistle-blower at the now defunct Cambridge Analytica, which was embroiled in the recent Facebook data mining scandal.

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