Levi's announcement that it would pilot AI-generated models to "increase diversity" was met with backlash from Black models who already face underrepresentation in the fashion industry.
According to Insider, the company announced last week that it would partner with Lalaland.ai, "an AI-powered digital fashion studio that creates lifelike fashion models." Levi's said it hopes the initiative will increase "the number and diversity" of its models "in a sustainable way," per a press release.
Jasmine Rutledge, a 28-year-old Black model in Los Angeles, believes the company should be using its resources to book more diverse models.
"I think it's silly, especially because there are so many diverse models out there," Rutledge said. "So they talk about diversity, yet they're not willing to go out of their way to book those people."
The model recalled working with Levi's and being the only Black person on set.
"I only worked with them one time because I was probably their token Black girl for the day, instead of being like a regular model with them. These companies have their rotation of models that they use all the time," Rutledge said.
Efosa Uwubamwen, a 28-year-old Black model in London, said Levi's move to use AI models is only exacerbating diversity issues in the industry.
"The reason why diversity is such an issue in the industry at the moment is exactly the same problem that Levi's is recreating, which is that people of color don't get as many bookings or don't get requested nearly as much as white models," Uwubamwen said.
Levi's addressed the controversy in an updated press release saying, "We do not see this pilot as a means to advance diversity or as a substitute for the real action that must be taken to deliver on our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and it should not have been portrayed as such."
However, Uwubamwen still thinks the AI initiative is a "strange" way to try to "increase diversity."
"There are plenty of diverse models who want to work. Unless you're talking about saving costs, and unless that's a goal across the board, then that's a different conversation. If you're talking about diversity, then it becomes quite a strange proposition if you ask me," he said.