Sketches designed for the Tommy Hilfiger project


Student designers used insights gained from the IBM/Watson project to infuse their designs with innovative tech capabilities. “The machine-learning analysis gave us insights about the Tommy Hilfiger DNA that we couldn’t begin to consume or understand with the human mind,” says Michael Ferraro, executive director of the FIT/Infor Design and Tech Lab. “In addition to exploring how AI might impact decision-making in fashion design, we explored how tools such as social media listening and voice recognition can create a more personalized shopping experience built around an interactive ‘smart’ supply chain strategy that minimizes waste and environmental impact.” These are examples of the various designs created by the FIT students:
    • A plaid tech jacket was made with advanced color-changing fibers that respond to AI analysis of voice and social media feeds.
    • A SolarActive™ sundress, inspired by Hilfiger silhouettes and color palettes, was created with advanced solar-reactive fabric and customer personalization. One strap of the dress has the initials TH for Tommy Hilfiger; the other strap is customized with the purchaser’s initials.
    • Designs were created based on an individual’s social personality, such as an avatar made to be used as a design element; a bomber jacket that uses Watson Personality Insights from the customer’s Twitter account to determine individualized striping and color; and a white “smart” parka that can display current events, temperature, train updates, music, and social media on a removable OLED screen, using voice control and conductive fibers.
These designs respond to the younger customer’s desire for a personalized shopping experience. According to an IBM study, 52 percent of women in Generation Z would like to see tools that allow them to customize products, increasing delivery speed. With garments made on demand, overstock is also greatly reduced.


Executives from Tommy Hilfiger and PVH, the parent company of Hilfiger, selected Grace McCarty’s plaid tech jacket as the top design. McCarty’s cognitive print jacket and Amy Tae Hwa Eun’s SolarActive™ sundress were made into samples that were showcased in a display about the project at National Retail Federation (NRF) 2018, Retail’s Big Show, held at the Javits Center January 14-16.

As Avery Baker, Tommy Hilfiger’s chief brand officer, said in a blog post on IBM’s THINK site, “These young designers truly embody this spirit by showcasing the successful integration of fashion, technology, and science.”

 “I loved the idea that we collaborated with IBM and FIT,” Hilfiger said in a talk at NRF. “What it proved to us is all the information that is out there can be reachable with a click. When FIT students took our archives, they were able to access everything we did in the past and apply it to today’s design concepts. It’s a tremendous breakthrough.”

Sketches of a jacket designed for the Tommy Hilfiger project
Tommy Hilfiger in crowd of people

Status Update

The project continues to be well received by the industry.  As examples of what can happen when we engage science and art, the garments that were produced are being presented at various industry conferences.  Recently, Michael Ferraro spoke in Las Vegas at an IBM program.

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