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Tracy Porter is a 55-year-old entrepreneur based in California’s Santa Ynez Valley. She’s the owner of The Porter Collective, an e-commerce site that sells clothes designed by Porter herself. Her designs feature her posing in every piece, and her husband takes the pictures with his iPhone. However, Porter has been looking for ways to reduce the need for her to model her own clothes, both to lighten the load and bring more diversity to the site. Professional models are too expensive, so Porter has started using an AI service from Botika, an Israeli start-up. She says the images look so realistic that when she showed her sons, they told her she was out of a job.
The use of AI-generated models has caused controversy recently, with some people feeling that it is an attempt to avoid hiring human models and increase diversity. However, for small businesses like Porter’s, the cost of hiring professional models is prohibitive. Botika caters to small businesses and plans to offer subscriptions to its AI model service for just $15 a month. The company has already received over 1,000 requests from customers eager to use its service.
Lalaland is another company that provides AI-generated models for use in clothing photography. The company has seen significant growth in the last eight months, with sales growing eight or nine-fold. The company’s CEO, Michael Musandu, says Lalaland is helping emerging brands that have zero or low budgets to plan photoshoots. This helps level the playing field for these businesses and represents the underdog.
Photoshoots are expensive, and while shoppers increasingly demand that clothes be shown on a variety of models, no brand has an unlimited budget to do that. Hiring outside photographers, models, and hair and makeup stylists can cost thousands of dollars. Tracy Porter used to pay $5,500 for a photoshoot, and outsourcing photography today could cost her $500,000 a year. This is why she started modeling her own clothes in the first place. However, this makes it difficult for shoppers with different body shapes or ethnicities to get a sense of how the clothes would look on them.
Jacob Flores, owner of Blissfully Brand, is another small business owner who has started using AI-generated models. Flores sells skintight dresses, skater skirts, and bell bottoms in colorful prints inspired by fashion from the 1960s and 1970s. He has a lot of customers in their 40s and 50s, but many models for hire tend to be much younger. Lalaland allows him to hand-select digital models from a library, dress them in his products, and upload the images to his site without leaving the house. For $300 a month, he gets 350 images, enabling him to display more of his clothing on models much faster.
Richard Evans, founder of wellness startup Juro Miru, has also included shots of AI models to launch his new e-commerce site, in addition to images of clothing laid on a flat surface. While there are no clear rules for disclosure, some companies are beginning to think about it. TikTok is reportedly working on a tool that will give creators a way to say whether they’ve used generative AI.