Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Leanne Luce is a Product Manager at Google. She has a degree in Apparel Design from RISD and previously worked on robotic exoskeletons and soft goods for the military at Harvard University's Wyss Institute and at Otherlab in San Francisco. Leanne is also editor of the blog The Fashion Robot, which has been recognized by publications such as Vogue and Glossy.
Leanne, tell us a bit more about your projects so far and what has changed since the last time we spoke.
Throughout my career, I have always followed my curiosity and kept going with fashion and technology related projects and jobs. Last time we spoke I had created a brand called Omura. The featured product was an accessory for cryptocurrency hardware wallets, namely the Ledger Wallet.
Since then, I've been writing a book about how artificial intelligence is impacting the fashion industry which launched at the end of December 2018. I also started working as a Product Manager at Google.
What is the idea behind "Artificial Intelligence for Fashion" book and how did you come up with it?
We've all seen articles that promise something spectacular about how AI is changing fashion. They show a few cool pictures, but they never explain what the AI is doing or how it works. It's confusing and frustrating to read those articles and feel like you don't understand what's really going on.
As these articles were coming out, there had been no resource to go to for an explanation in plain English about how the technology worked. For many, basic questions like "what's the difference between AI and machine learning?" were left unanswered. The idea behind the book is that it's the resource I had been looking for when I was learning and researching. It is example based, visual, and doesn't include any code or algorithms. It breaks down technical jargon to make some of the major topics on AI easy to understand.
How long did it take you to write the book?
The book took a little over a year to write and edit.
What was the biggest obstacle?
One of the biggest obstacles was in the research. First, it took a lot of interviewing and decoding to understand how to explain some of the most basic concepts. There were topics in the book that I knew really well but when I sat down to explain them simply, I struggled.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur and writer in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
There are always challenges when you're carving a new path whether it's through entrepreneurship, writing a book about something new, changing careers, or countless other examples.
In my experience, one of the challenges of being an entrepreneur is letting go of past ideas. I know sometimes I get attached to a vision I have of how something should be and it is to my own disadvantage. I have found that it's often the case that in order to make space for better opportunities, I have to let go of older ones. It can often be frightening or heartbreaking to move on.
A more specific challenge I ran into writing this book was fear of judgement. I knew I was writing something for an audience that was different from the typical AI research audience. It was intimidating not only because I was afraid that it would be hard to understand, but because I was afraid that on the other end of the spectrum, it wasn't academic enough to be taken seriously. It took some time to really realize that there was something special about writing through this lens where I had to take nothing for granted, bust the buzz words, and forget about how people would judge my intelligence.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
My biggest achievements I do hope are yet to come! However, I am very proud and excited to have joined Google towards the end of last year. I'm also very excited about the release of my book, which was one goals I had set for myself.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
Well, I'm really excited to continue talking about the book and getting the word out. One of the exciting things about the audience for this book is that being fashion, it's predominately female. It has been a really meaningful experience to me especially over the last month as I've been giving talks to see so many female faces in the audience.
What will be the key trends in the fashion tech and AI industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading? How about biggest challenges for fashion tech businesses?
That's a great question! I make no guarantees about where I think this all will lead. I will say that the accumulation of many new technologies across the industry could manifest in a highly specialized style assistant, far better than the examples we've seen today. However, the most likely thing is that the least sexy of the machine learning work will become the most impactful and the public may never hear about it.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in fashion tech and / or AI?
I am so glad you ask these questions during your interviews because it has always been important to me to have inspirational women in mind.
1 - Nadia Boujarwah
Nadia is the founder of Dia & Co, a personal stylist service for plus size women, similar to Stitch Fix. They are heavily machine learning and data-focused and it's exciting to watch them grow and succeed in a market that was significantly underrepresented and undervalued.
2 - Amber Venx Box
Amber is the founder of RewardStyle and Liketoknow.it, now a $1 billion company based on serving fashion-tech products to influencers.
3 - Dr. Yusan Lin
Yusan is a dear friend and an incredibly inspiring woman. She holds a PhD in computer science and engineering and is currently a Research Scientist at Visa research. She has written a number of papers in the area of fashion and machine learning and spoken on the subject. She's also a fashion model. There is nothing this woman can't do.
Learn how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being applied in the fashion industry. With an application focused approach, this book provides real-world examples, breaks down technical jargon for non-technical readers, and provides an educational resource for fashion professionals. The book investigates the ways in which AI is impacting every part of the fashion value chain starting with product discovery and working backwards to manufacturing.
Use promo code: FASHION20 for 20% off purchases through Apress: bit.ly/AI-Fashion
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.