Lizzie Howitt, Business Director of LIGHTBLUE – a human first and technology empowered, creative experience agency, talks to Emirates Woman about redefining experiences within the region and globally.
In an insightful conversation, Lizzie talks about her role in the organisation, its larger objective and the growing intergration of AI in fashion and how beneficial it will be for the brands in the Middle East.
What are the key elements of your role?
As the Business Director, I lead the client services team, working with brands to create meaningful moments that matter and connect with their audiences. My role is to work alongside creatives, developing, understanding and championing powerful creative ideas, and proving to clients and brands that creativity and commercially effective experiences are not mutually exclusive.
Talk us through your daily routine.
It’s usually a hectic morning getting my two girls, aged five and one, out the door for school and nursery, my drive to work is considered a moment of calm where I prepare myself for the day ahead. My day is spent working alongside the wider team, reviewing creative work and proposals, meetings with clients on projects and ensuring faultless delivery for our live executions. Our clients span a range of sectors from technology and entertainment, automotive, fashion and beauty. As a creative experiential agency, we have the luxury of not being defined by a platform or channel for the work we deliver, so my days can look very different depending on the project in hand. We’re always looking at what’s new and what’s next which is why embracing new technologies is of such keen interest to us and our client set.
What role do you foresee AI playing in revolutionizing fashion trends across the Middle East?
Personalised recommendations, tailored experiences, virtual try on, supply chain management, trend forecasting…. the list in endless! Advanced technologies are empowering and changing the fashion landscape. The opportunities for brands to drive innovation and set themselves apart in a competitive landscape will be available to those brave enough to disrupt using technology. Through intelligent automation, fashion brands are set to revolutionise how they operate and more importantly how they connect with their consumer.
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What potential challenges might arise from the integration of AI into the fashion industry of the Middle East?
Unsurprisingly, there’s pros and cons when it comes to AI integration, especially as wider adoption of it is still in its infancy. One of the biggest boundaries to overcome is the safeguarding of data. AI collects and analyses data sets and the more personalised and tailored the experience is, the more data its harnessing. Consumers might rightly have security concerns, so fashion brands will need to be strigent with ensuring the security of an individual’s data. Balancing the benefits and challenges will be essential for success and more widespread adoption. As time, and technology, pushes on, collaboration between designers, consumers, and developers will be paramount to how AI integrates into the fashion sector.
How will AI-driven personalization affect the shopping experience for fashion enthusiasts in the Middle East?
One of the most exciting benefits is the personalization that AI integration will bring to consumers, imagine having a personal stylist at your fingertips, on call 24/7, and available at the click of a button! Mornings spent staring aimlessly at my wardrobe would certainly change with an AI-powered styling assistant on hand to help. UAE home grown concept ‘Get Outfit’ shows much promise on that front, having just secured pre-seed investment they have recently soft launched in the UAE but have wider ambitions for scaling to KSA and the wider GCC. Get Outfit is an app that essentially allows you to have a stylist in your pocket, with a personalized curated shopping feed, customizable outfit options and an AI wardrobe assistant on hand to answer any questions. Apps such as this will revolutionize the shopping experience, offering curated and targeted fashion picks direct to the user.
Could you elaborate on the potential role of AI in predicting and adapting to fashion trends within the Middle East?
Algorithms, powered by AI, can analyze huge data sets across platforms such as social media, in order to identify and predict emerging fashion trends in their infancy. For a region with such high social media usage this real time information of what consumers are drawn to, wearing and styling, is invaluable and will help designers stay up-to-date with fluctuating fashion trends and respond accordingly. This, coupled with AI-driven inventory management will help identify which trends are fleeting and which are here to stay, and allow designers and retailers to stock accordingly and reduce waste. On the marketing front this also helps brands better understand the needs of their consumer and target more efficiently and effectively.
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How could AI-driven innovations potentially transform the way fashion is produced, marketed, and consumed in the Middle East?
More data driven insights will be leveraged by fashion brands to get a deeper understanding of consumer preference and behaviour, this knowledge will help determine future product development and inform marketing strategies to help cater for the diverse consumer base we have here in the Middle East. With sustainability on the minds of many consumers, brands can also utilise AI to make improvements to their supply chain and production process to reduce waste and their environmental impact. Our shopping habits will likely change too; AI-powered virtual try-ons, already adopted by luxury department store Tryano in Abu Dhabi, allows consumers to try on clothing and accessories virtually ahead of purchase, reducing the number of unwanted purchases (and avoiding the harsh lights of a store changing room!) What interests me is what the brand experience in stores will start to look like, as we see a move from a more practical shop front, storing clothes with long lines of hangers to instead a store ‘experience’ that allows consumers to become more exploratory
How do you think AI will collaborate with human creativity to shape the future of fashion in the Middle East?
The best thing I’ve read in reference to AI is that it will automate the mundane and leave more time for creativity. I think this is certainly true in the fashion sector – I hope that the automation of more mundane tasks will allow more home-grown designers to focus on the art of fashion, and lead to more creativity and stylistic expression. Similarly, with consumers I hope that AI powered tech will help and inspire individuals to try new styles, piece together new looks and perhaps shop for items that previously they would have walked right past in the store.
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