AI Models No Substitute for Action on Diversity After Backlash

  • Levi’s responded to backlash over its decision to use new AI-generated diverse models.
  • The denimwear label said it did not regard AI models as a substitute for real action.
  • Levi’s was criticized for using AI as a replacement for hiring and paying diverse models.

Levi’s said its decision to use AI-generated diverse models was not a “means to advance diversity” or substitute for real action following an outcry.

The denimwear brand came under scrutiny this week after it announced a partnership with to use AI-generated models with more diverse skin tones and body types. is a Black-owned AI company set up in 2019.

“With these body-inclusive avatars, the company aims to create a more inclusive, personal and sustainable shopping experience for fashion brands, retailers and customers,” Levi’s said. 

However, critics said AI-generated models were a lazy way to address diversity issues, and meant that diverse models would miss out on opportunities to be hired and paid by Levi’s. 

“Your diversity doesn’t count if you’re not diversifying who’s on the payroll,” one Twitter user wrote.

Levi’s said in a statement Tuesday: “We are not scaling back our plans for live photo shoots, the use of live models, or our commitment to working with diverse models.’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.”

Shereen Daniels, CEO and founder of UK-based racial equity consultancy firm HR Rewired, told Insider: “It looks like they’re trying to shortcut their way into the commercial benefits of demonstrating a more representative model, without doing the work.” 

She said that minority ethnic groups were expected to double to make up almost a third of the UK population by 2061, while their annual disposable income is also estimated to double to £575 billion ($708 billion), according to a report by advertising giant WPP. That amounted to a huge commercial opportunity, Daniels added. 

Levi’s addressed some of the concerns raised in its statement Wednesday but did not provide further details on how it planned to address diversity issues. The company did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for further comment. 

Following the death of George Floyd in 2020, the company said it would hire a head of diversity and inclusion, “reinvigorate” its search for a Black director to join its board, and train employees on anti-racism and racial equity.

Daniels said she wanted Levi’s, and its competitors, to be more transparent about their efforts to address systemic racism and to create a level playing field for both employees and customers who had been overlooked. 

Visual representation was just one small, and superficial, part of that equation, she said.