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New Balance deploys AI to spot trendy NYFW attendees 

New Balance is deploying artificial intelligence to track the outfits of New York Fashion Week showgoers, rewarding those whose style truly stands out.

New Balance
New Balance

New Balance is deploying artificial intelligence to track the outfits of New York Fashion Week showgoers, rewarding those whose style truly stands out.

On September 6, the sportswear company will set up a booth in the Soho neighborhood with cameras facing out in every direction, in order to scan as many people as possible walking the streets. The cameras will track outfits in real-time, analyzing features such as colors, patterns, shapes and styles, using AI to identify the ‘anomalies and exceptions to the norm’.

New Balance representatives will then approach passersby who are identified as truly stylish, and reward them with a pair of the brand’s Fresh Foam Cruz Nubuck sneakers.

“The idea is to celebrate people who go left when everybody else is going right,” says Allie Tsavdarides, director of global marketing at New Balance, of the “Be the Exception” campaign. “During a week where there is incredible emphasis and excitement around new trends and fashion, New Balance wants to celebrate individuals who are expressing themselves in independent and distinctive ways.”

The experience, called “Real Time Exception Spotting”, will be powered by TensorFlow, which will gather information about what people are wearing, in most part devoid of human intervention or bias. In the run-up to fashion week, a team of computer scientists has been going around the city collecting baseline data about fashion trends in order to feed the system.

According to Footwear News, the brand plans to use the technology again in Toronto, Stockholm and Madrid over the upcoming months. The use of it could also potentially be deployed in other scenarios such as at its own stores, with such data eventually helping inform R&D, says the brand. In line with recent concerns around data protection, the brand will not be collecting or storing any personal data, nor will it be deploying facial recognition, it notes.

New Balance’s “Be the Exception” campaign aligns with the brand’s strategy of speaking to those who sit outside fashion and don’t follow trends. As sportswear giants Nike and Adidas fight for the top hypebeast spot, by purposively removing itself from the race, New Balance is potentially positioning itself as a timeless and trusted alternative.

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By Bia Bezamat

Bia Bezamat is a fashion journalist by trade and innovation expert with experience spanning fashion, retail, grocery and hospitality. Originally from Brazil, she is interested in how cultural, behavioral and technological shifts influence how consumers and brands interact with each other. As Senior Innovation Editor and Strategist at Current Global, she helps brands understand changing consumer behaviors and the evolving technology landscape.