Collina Strada’s Baggu collab is under fire for using AI-generated prints


Fashion label Collina Strada has made a name for itself by claiming to prioritize sustainable production and climate awareness, but a recent release has buyers doubting whether the brand is truly committed to the cause.

A highly anticipated collaboration between Collina Strada and bag-maker Baggu, released yesterday, has been revealed to have been created using AI tools. As part of a larger discussion of the brand’s use of AI, a Reddit user fed photos from the whimsical collection, which featured horse-shaped purses and trippy prints, into a program that purports to detect whether an image has been created using AI. The result? An 86.4 percent likelihood that one of the designs had been created using AI or deepfake tech.

Buyers were confused. On its website and throughout its marketing, Collina Strada calls itself “a platform for climate awareness, social awareness, change and self expression [sic].” But AI is hugely taxing on the environment. One report suggests that, due in large part to AI, demand for electricity to power data centers may grow by up to 20 percent in the next six years — a potentially disastrous obstacle for the transition to climate-friendly energy sources. It is also considered by some to be an encroachment on the work and rights of artists, whose work is often used — without permission — to train AI models.

On its website, Baggu has since added a note on two of the prints, “Blue Thorns” and “Boxer Plaid,” disclosing that they are both “AI-conceptualized” and created using the generative artificial intelligence program Midjourney. “The [Collina Strada] team used Midjourney as a tool to remix old Collina prints and drive them further,” the description reads. “After they used Midjourney to mix two of their prints together, their graphics team transformed the concept into a repeat, inserting logos and adding new elements and layers to complete the print.”

When reached for comment, Collina Strada told Mashable that “For the record, we only used AI for the Boxer Plaid and Blue Thorn prints” and that “Midjourney does not take away the process of using print designers this was just used as an experiment for this season and translated by the designers.”

The prints were first shown alongside other designs made with the help of AI at the label’s SS24 “Soft is Hard” runway show where — ironically — models glided down the runway to a song with the lyrics “Why are we here, the Earth’s on fire.”

Comments under a Collina Strada Instagram post about the collection are filled with customers expressing disappointment. “I did not know about the AI pattern,” read one, “I will be cancelling my order.” Another opined, “Using AI is unforgivable. Horrible for artists and even more importantly the environment. Hurts my heart but I will not be buying from Baggu anymore.” A third said, “You can still cancel and get a refund if ur like me and expected better from the designer and baggu… show companies ai isn’t welcome as long as its unregulated and unethical.”

Buyers on Reddit were even more disappointed by screenshots that appeared to show Art Director of Collina Strada, Charlie Engman, reacting dismissively to concerns. On an Instagram story that included a screenshot of a comments section critical of the release, Engman wrote “Endlessly fascinated by the punitive urge to foment public judgement over an artistic process in the name of protecting artists.” Engman has been publicly enthusiastic about the use of AI in his own work.

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