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This designer thinks AI-powered, customized jeans are the future

Collina Strada’s designer Hillary Taymour collaborated with Unspun to create high-fashion low-waste jeans.

This designer thinks AI-powered, customized jeans are the future

Hillary Taymour, the designer behind the bohemian brand Collina Strada, wants you to ditch off-the-shelf jeans. Why would you buy pants in a predetermined size instead of jeans made specifically for you?

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You might say that it’s because bespoke jeans sound too expensive, but new technology is making them increasingly accessible. For her new collection, which dropped on September 12 at New York Fashion Week, Taymour partnered with the tech startup Unspun to design four pairs of jeans that don’t come in a fixed size, but were tailored to the specifications of each model. Soon, you’ll be able to buy those same jeans customized to your own body. Unspun’s jeans cost around $200, and Taymour’s fancier, bedazzled versions cost between $450 and $550.

Taymour is famous for trying to create fashion with a small environmental footprint. Since launching Collina Strada in 2009, she’s focused on making small batches of clothes in local factories, using sustainable materials like upcycled rubber and deadstock. In the past, she’s used leftover Levi’s fabric to create jeans. She was drawn to Unspun’s manufacturing model because it produces no waste, and may, in fact, curb the amount of deadstock that ends up on the market.

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Beth Esponnette founded Unspun in 2017 in an effort to tackle fashion’s wasteful practices. Most brands design clothes and place orders at factories six to nine months in advance, making educated guesses about what styles and sizes will be popular in the future. But they expect that a significant proportion of their inventory will go unsold. Of the more than 100 billion garments churned out annually, an estimated 30% is never purchased.

Unspun’s technology allows consumers to do a 3D body scan at home in 10 seconds. Its software then uses artificial intelligence to transform these data points into a pattern that a factory can use to cut and sew jeans. Once the customer has selected the denim style they want, an order will be sent to a factory in China or Turkey, and the customer will receive their jeans in three weeks.

“The technology can be used to make any kind of garment,” says Esponnette. “But in focus groups, it was very clear that jeans were the item that consumers most struggled with when it came to fit.”

AI-powered jeans seem high tech and comfortable, but for many people, fashion is about self-expression and emotion. That’s why this collaboration with Collina Strada is so important, Esponnette says. Taymour brought her colorful, ’90s-inspired aesthetic to her designs. Some jeans are decked out in rhinestones, others featured plaid patterns painted in watercolor. And all of them fit into the show’s butterfly theme.

The four jeans from the collection will be available to purchase in the next few weeks from both Collina Strada and Unspun. And for both Esponnette and Taymour, these jeans make the point that sustainable fashion doesn’t need to be dull or minimalist. It can be rhinestone-encrusted.

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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