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AI Is Revolutionizing the Way We Think About Shoes

New Technology Helps Stabilize Operations at Ukrainian Shoe Company

By Andrea LawrencePublished about a year ago 7 min read
A new way of designing shoes could become commonplace in the fashion industry. It has made operations run smoother at a shoe company in Ukraine. | Source: Courtesy KACHOROVSKA

Innovation in Fashion During a Time of Turbulence

A Ukrainian shoe designer has come up with a way to stay ahead in the fashion industry while also dealing with the ongoing interruptions that are prevalent when in a war zone. The following article goes into how technology is aiding Kachorovska, a shoe company in Kyiv. The use of AI tech in fashion could spread from this company and become commonplace around the world.

War and Resistance

The ongoing war in Ukraine will have aftershocks for years to come. My hope is that peace becomes a reality sooner than later and that Russia backs off for good. I am impressed by the resilience of Ukrainian businesses in their efforts to push forward despite uncertainties about the future. I have a soft spot for these companies, so I want to bring attention to them.

Recently, I stumbled upon something incredibly clever and timely⁠ — timely in that one of the hot topics right now (and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable future) is artificial intelligence. After months of persevering during war times, Kachorovska’s creative brand director came up with something innovative to stretch the potential of what could be possible for footwear: technology that reinvents shoe designs through AI.

The company is a third-generation family-owned business in Kyiv, and it has had its fair share of challenges over the decades from the Cold War to the present. The shoe company has found ways to thrive regardless of major challenges from the current war — such as having no electricity, internet, or water.

A factory worker inspecting a shoe. Kachorovska is now creating designs through AI and then adjusting those designs to make actual shoes. | Source: Courtesy KACHOROVSKA

Engaging in New Technology

In December 2022, the company started using AI tech for its shoe campaign called “We Speak Shoes”. The company is relying on this tech partly because it’s fast, making life easier when day-to-day operations are unpredictable. Staff at Kachorovska never know if the electricity will randomly cut out, if they’ll have to take cover during a raid, or if there will be major obstructions to traffic on the way to work.

Relying on AI helps the business to stay on top of things; it reduces the amount of time spent designing new shoes and keeps the company competitive with fresh designs. Here is a video of some of the designs the AI has created.

The brand ships around 25,000 shoes around the world in a year, making it hard to stay on top of the demand when confronted with major challenges to everyday workflow. AI is helping make operations at the shoe factory run more efficiently, and it’s giving people flexibility when they have to change plans.

“The idea of implementing digital art in the shoe campaign essentially fell into our hands. At that time, there was a buzz in the global network about releasing various models of latent diffusion, a type of deep generative neural network for converting text into images.” — Vitaly Yermak, the campaign Art Designer

Shoe Designs Created With AI Assistance

Shoe blueprints are created with AI assistance. The designs are then adjusted by human experts to create shoes that fit and work with real feet. | Source: Courtesy KACHOROVSKA

AI Shoe Campaign

So how does the “We Speak Shoes” campaign work? It uses a neural network to convert text into images. The campaign is designed to show people how shoes are an ever-changing art form and what effort it takes to bring new shoes into reality. The company released videos online to show what the AI tech is capable of doing.

Here is what the creative process entails:

  • The brand tests its most popular products. It adjusts its algorithm for videos to best cater to its line of shoes.
  • For each pair of shoes, a mood board is created with visuals matching its style. The AI uses the visuals as clues to generate new designs.
  • The AI is played with extensively to find compelling interpretations of the brand’s shoes and to perfect fractal reimagining.

“During this period, while the campaign worked on the videos with the help of a neural network, it created about 29,0186 unique variations of the Kachorovska shoe styles. The AI did what would have taken a person forever in 321,0784 seconds (about 90 hours). I believe we are witnessing the birth of a new era in culture. I call it a neo-renaissance, where there is absolute neo/innovative creativity that creates pure beauty in its highest essence.” — Alina Kachorovska, creative brand director

The brand’s creative director, Alina Kachorovska, has been looking for the next big thing in fashion for years. She told reporters she realized “AI could change the landscape because it offers endless creativity with infinite variations.” She sees new technology as a positive, and as a way to move beyond our comfort zones. Rather than fearing AI tech, Kachorovska wants to use it as a tool to stay ahead of the game, something that’s needed when doing what you can to stay strong during a war.

FYI: The designer is a fan of science fiction. She has mentioned in interviews that the effort to use AI at the shoe company reminds her of one of her favorite books: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Why aren’t there concerns that AI could replace jobs in the fashion industry? According to the creative brand director, she says “art direction and creative discretion are required even for AI’s variability.” To put it simply, just because AI can spit out information doesn’t mean it has the discernment to assemble that information into something meaningful. Just like with ChatGPT conversations, there are limitations when it comes to creating cohesive content through AI. Instead of letting AI take the wheel and steer the whole operation, it is used to enhance already established practices. The creative brand director said in response to questions about the new tech that “AI can heighten creativity and make for a better consumer experience.”

In a nutshell: The Ukranian business is using AI to create a higher degree of shoe blueprints. Experts on staff will adjust those designs to work with the anatomy of feet. Human expertise will guarantee that consumers find shoes that fit, and they’re not just buying absurd creations developed through an AI database.

Technology As a Form of Resistance

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, 2022. People around the world hoped the conflict would end swiftly, but days turned into months, and now the months are precariously adding up. Many have died in the conflict, people have fled as refugees to nearby countries, and people’s livelihoods have been destroyed. There will be ongoing problems from this conflict for years, if not decades.

During these turbulent times, Ukrainian fashion brands, like Kachorovska, see it as their duty to continue sketching, sewing, and designing. The company has supplied army boots to Ukranian soldiers. The company is working hard to make sure that workers stay employed and can continue to put food on their tables. This is why AI is important and revolutionary: it’s stabilizing people’s jobs when war-time efforts make things uncertain. Ukrainians are standing together in resilience as bombs are dropped and air raid sirens blare. Interruptions are expected, so any tool that can help keep things on track is a blessing.

Many Ukrainian companies have repurposed their operations or relocated to a safer part of Ukraine — or to another country altogether. Travel is a major challenge as curfews and strict border policies are put in place. During the war, no flights are allowed in or out of the country. It can take anywhere from 20-30 hours to get to a neighboring European city.

Despite the setbacks from the war, Kachorovska made the decision to stay in Kyiv. The company is one of the largest footwear brands in Ukraine and employs around 150 people, so it’s not a small firm by any means. Also, it’s an institution with deep cultural ties to the country. It’s a third-generation owned family business started by Alina Kachorovska’s grandmother. Alina says she isn’t interested in leaving Ukraine and compares the present to when she was a young girl and the USSR fell.

“I remember when I was 5 years old, we had long periods without electricity as we were a poor country after the USSR breakdown. We didn’t have candles, just a piece of textile in oil, and this is how we lit the house. Those tough years come back as vivid memories when we again face blackouts. My son, 4 years old, the first thing he does as soon as he wakes up is run to see if we have lights. I hope my kids remember the sunny moments from their childhood and forget what war brought us.” — Alina Kachorovska, creative brand director

Three generations of Kachorovskas together in one picture. Alina’s grandmother founded the company. | Source: Courtesy KACHOROVSKA

Challenges in Ukraine Are Commonplace

As challenges to power and water continued during the 2022 holidays, Ukrainians were greatly restricted in how they could celebrate Christmas and the New Year. This was the time Alina decided to introduce her new campaign “We Speak Shoes” and broadcast the way AI could change the game for shoes. Despite the setbacks to the electric grid, the brand made it clear that people can still advance forward. It’s inspiring for me to see how they persevere and refuse to let their spirits be broken. This defies expectations.

The company has a history of pushing forward in spite of larger global conflicts. Alina’s grandmother launched the company during the Cold War in 1957. It also saw the fall of the USSR and other wars and conflicts engineered by Vladimir Putin.

Kachorovska did recently have to close its two famous coffee shops attached to the retail stores since business declined heavily during the war. There have been losses during this time; it takes great wisdom to figure out how to move forward.

Alina is working closely with her mom Olena Kachorovska, who currently runs the factory, to stabilize the brand. There is an effort from the women to push forward with new fashion collections and also to deliver supplies to Ukrainian troops.


Originally published: https://hubpages.com/technology/AI-Could-Revolutionize-the-Way-We-Think-About-Shoes

thought leaderspop culture

About the Creator

Andrea Lawrence

Freelance writer. Undergrad in Digital Film and Mass Media. Master's in English Creative Writing. Spent six years working as a journalist. Owns one dog and two cats.

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