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Thea Booysen wearing Volvo inspired garment by Fikile Sokhulu.


AI turns recycled car fabric into fashion

Volvo teamed up with designer Fikile Sokhulu to create a ready-to-wear garment using fabric from the EX30 EV. Gamer Thea Beasty showed it off.

Would you wear a garment made from car seat fabric? The automatic response would probably be no, but the answer will probably change when you hear it is recycled material, using AI to turn it into ready-to-wear fashion.

South African-born gamer Thea Booysen, known as ‘Thea Beasty,’ has teamed up with Volvo Car South Africa and local designer Fikile Sokhulu to model a custom-made A/W ’24 ready-to-wear garment using upholstery from Volvo’s latest electric vehicle. Booysen has made a name for herself in the eSports arena and co-owns her own eSports team. 

The tech cherry on top of the garment? AI technology was roped into the design process.

Thea Booysen wearing Volvo inspired garment by Fikile Sokhulu.

“The aim was to use material from the car, combined with a design that was influenced by AI. It was a first in South Africa,” says Volvo chief financial officer Marishka Govender. “We wanted to inspire the public to view sustainability and advanced technologies such as AI as concepts that can exist in harmony with human-centric ideas of beauty and creativity.”

The car, which is fitted with many advanced driver-assistance and safety features, is seen as a forerunner to AI technologies that could be used in future models. The next generation of Volvos will include technologies such as LiDAR and NVIDIA-driven supercomputers. 

‘Thea Beasty,’ with local designer Fikile Sokhulu to model a custom-made A/W ’24 ready-to-wear garment.

These systems act as the eyes and brains of the vehicle, processing data at incredible speeds to make real-time, intelligent decisions. Govender says that, in scenarios where a child might suddenly run into the street, these vehicles can assess the situation and react quicker than a human, applying brakes instantly to prevent accidents. 

“There is naturally some apprehension around the use of AI, which is why projects like these are so important. They open up conversations about the various benefits.”

Designer Sokhulu, renowned for her work with natural fibres and drawing inspiration from her cultural heritage, used Meta AI to inspire her garment. 

“The designs from my prompts gave me very symmetrical shapes, which I wanted to combine with aspects of nature,” she says. “Nature often resembles perfect symmetry and asymmetry. I decided to use this combination to create an outfit for Thea. The upholstery fabric was also surprisingly easy to work with.”

Booysen, who is currently undertaking her master’s in human cognitive neuropsychology at the University of Edinburgh, said, “I think it’s crazy how AI was used to make a real human product. Normally you have humans designing digital products and it felt like this time we did a 180 and did the complete opposite. It felt like I was wearing something that a catwalk model was meant to wear.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of new things, like AI. Instead, we should use it as a tool to enhance human creation. At the end of the day, we are still in charge, and this is merely a tool.”

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