Alexa, what should I wear today?

Earlier this year, electronic commerce mogul Amazon released a truly innovative piece of technology: a voice-controlled selfie camera to help you decide what to wear and give fashion tips, in a way not dissimilar to Queer Eye’s Tan France – except, of course, without the human warmth, friendliness, and the Doncaster accent. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and labelled as a ‘style assistant’, the Amazon Echo Look has recently become available to the public for a price of $199.99 (£154.04), after previously being available by invite only to a select few. The device uses a combination of algorithms to analyse your outfit, as well as the input of human fashion specialists. It’s essentially the real-life version of Cher Horowitz’s computerised closet in Clueless. But how can style be coded, when style itself is subjective?

The Amazon Echo Look has undeniably changed the relationship between fashion and technology, though whether for better or for worse, it remains to be seen. Depending on price, it is highly likely that the device will find moderate success. While there are definite advantages, such as time-saving and the confidence of knowing that your outfit ticks all the right boxes, surely this isn’t what fashion is all about? Fashion is a lot like cooking; some people are naturals, preferring to improvise on their own, while others would rather have the strict guidance of a recipe to feel as if they’re doing it right. But just as with cooking, many of the best things about fashion come from impromptu decisions and improvisation. There’s no reason or rationale behind why we like an outfit, we just do – whether it obeys all the fashion guidelines or not. Maybe the colour makes us happy, maybe the shape makes us feel sexy or maybe you were wearing that outfit on a particular night and, every time you wear it, you can’t help but smile at the memory. Fashion is about what makes you feel good and confident, and a computer simply can’t take these human emotions into account. Fashion is art, and art holds no logic.

There is also a danger that the Amazon Echo Look will lead to a loss of personal style, making us apathetic and mindless – you’re unlikely to argue with an outfit choice if you’re told it is technically perfect, even if you don’t personally like it. Perhaps we’ll feel as if our own style has been invalidated, and that we need to wear what the programme is telling us, in order to be seen as ‘fashionable’. But surely a personal sense of style is so much more important than this – individuality transcends the notion of ‘fashionable’, as fashion fades and trends change with the winds. Will the influence of something like the Echo Look see us all end up looking the same? More importantly, the Echo Look may risk undoing the work of Fourth Wave Feminism and the body positivity movement, by using outdated beauty standards and reinforcing the idea that certain body types can’t wear certain types of clothing. Then again, perhaps the fear created by Hollywood that robots will take over the world is limiting us from bettering said world. It’s all too easy to dismiss the input of AI, on the grounds that a machine couldn’t understand human emotions and impulses, but we don’t necessarily have proof that this is true. Technology that once seemed impossible now serves as an integral part of our everyday lives; Google Maps and Uber Eats have been pretty great so far, so who’s to say that future technology won’t sow similar benefits?

Undoubtedly, the Amazon Echo Look will lead to online shopping being quicker, more interesting and more engaging – instead of being something you do when you have money burning a hole in your pocket, ultimately ending in mindlessly scrolling through 25 pages of skirts because you don’t really know what you’re looking for. Instead, we’ll have tailored suggestions, which may also mean we’re less likely to throw things away, reducing the massive amounts of waste attributed to the fashion industry each year. This new technology may also help reduce industry bias and elitism, by using diverse images of fashion and models from all over the world and finding unique and interesting takes on the concept, rather than the same old recycled shtick. It really could go either way – the Amazon Echo Look could either be a force of good or a force of evil. As a broke student, it’ll be a very, very long time before I can fork over the money to test out the Amazon Echo Look for myself, but who knows? Perhaps one day we’ll find ourselves in a world where items such as these are considered as commonplace, and phrases such as “Alexa, what should I wear today?” are just another step in our morning routine.

By Tasha Johnson.

Image: Business Wire