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Microsoft AI is getting into quilting

Artificial intelligence is changing the design production process, one stitch at a time.

You’d probably associate antique quilts with the back of your grandmother’s sofa before artificial intelligence. But opposites do attract on occasion, as exemplified by the partnership of luxury menswear brand Bode and Microsoft.

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The companies joined forces to create a first-of-its-kind “digital quilt expert” platform, which uses artificial intelligence to draw from an archive of thousands of antique quilt patterns and identify patterns in new textiles that the Bode team uploads to the platform. As the digital archive grows to include more antique patterns, the “Bode Vault” will learn to better identify the uploaded quilt patterns. It’s basically a giant textile library, powered by AI.

[Photo: William Jess Laird]

One look at the piles of one-of-a-kind fabrics in the Bode studio, and you can see why an efficient way to identify fabrics is important. The brand makes bespoke clothing out of antique textiles and quilted fabric, with final pieces that range from $298 to over $1,000. It’s not as if you can just pull yards of the same textile from a bolt of fabric. The new digital library, powered by AI, will help Bode “identify quilts in the field and in our stores,” says founder Emily Adams Bode—especially important when no two pieces are the same. This will help the team organize and categorize stock faster, replacing what was previously a manual part of the design and production process.

[Photo: William Jess Laird]
Beyond its operational functionality, the archive also serves as a repository for historical knowledge. After a designer uploads an image of a quilt, the system spits back information that corresponds to the pattern. The designer can add more details too, making the system an encyclopedia of sorts for the textile novice. “I believe this technology can be used not only to keep an archive for our own use, but I believe that it can begin to teach others little intricacies that would otherwise be lost,” Bode said in a video announcing the collaboration. While the technology is currently only available to the Bode staff, the brand shared in a press release that the platform has the potential to reshape internal processes of the fashion industry as a whole—one patch at a time.

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About the author

Lilly Smith is an associate editor of Co.Design. She was previously the editor of Design Observer, and a contributing writer to AIGA Eye on Design.

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