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After backlash, Levi’s says AI-generated models ‘to increase diversity’ won’t replace real shoots

April 3, 2023

By Hillary K. Grigonis

© Levi Strauss,

Clothing brand Levi Strauss & Co.’s plan to create more diversity among its product photos using artificial intelligence backfired after drawing criticism earlier this week. On March 22, the brand announced a partnership to work with to experiment with “using AI-generated models to supplement human models, increasing the number of diversity of our models.” After an online outcry urging the company to instead pay a more diverse group of models, the company issued a statement on March 28 emphasizing that the program isn’t meant to replace real photoshoots.

The company plans to experiment with the technology later this year to generate more body-inclusive avatars. Levis will work with tech company, a black-owned company that launched in Amsterdam in 2019, to generate additional product photos using AI-generated models. In the original announcement, the company explained that the website and app typically only feature one model for each product. “This AI technology can potentially assist us by supplementing models and unlocking a future where we can enable customers to see our products on more models that look like themselves, creating a more personal and inclusive shopping experience,” the announcement reads.

The announcement, however, was quick to draw criticism. Posts on social media drew a large number of comments criticizing the company for using AI-generated models instead of hiring a racially diverse group of models. The company was criticized for using the technology rather than hiring people of color, while other pointed out that the point of the product photos is to see how the clothing fits on an actual human body.

After backlash, Levi’s says AI-generated models ‘to increase diversity’ won’t replace real shoots
© AlenKadr –

Following the social media backlash, Levi’s released an updated statement. However, rather than apologizing, the statement clarifies that the program isn’t going to replace the real photoshoots and isn’t part of efforts to diversify its workforce. “We do not see this pilot as a means to advance diversity or as a substitute for the real action that must be taken to deliver on our diversity, equity and inclusion goals and it should not have been portrayed as such,” the statement reads.

The company explained that AI-generated photoshoots are typically limited to one or two models per product, clarifying that the photoshoots will continue to run as before. “’s technology, and AI more broadly, can potentially assist us by allowing us to publish more images of our products on a range of body types more quickly,” the updated statement reads. “That being said, we are not scaling back our plans for live photo shoots, the use of live models, or our commitment to working with diverse models. Authentic storytelling has always been part of how we’ve connected with our fans, and human models and collaborators are core to that experience. The partnership may deliver some business efficiencies that provide consumers with a better sense of what a given product looks like but should not have been conflated with the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion commitment or strategy.”

While Levi’s statement says that using only one or two AI-generated models per product is an industry standard, many brands have committed to body-inclusive marketing. A growing number of brands have made significant changes to their photographs, from pledging to not Photoshop models to photographing the same clothing item on multiple body types.