Exclusive Interview: Sophia the Robot and designer Sadie Clayton
Let’s talk about the future of Humanoid Robots, feminism and the future of fashion and tech with Sophia the Robot and designer Sadie Clayton
Our personal journey to Artificial Intelligence
Shanghai Fashion Week this season had a strong correlation between fashion, tech, and AI challenging the current status quo of the fashion industry and its future. But this time, it’s wasn’t just a one angle view but going from traditional Retail to the new type of influencers and digitized b2b customization for the fashion industry.
The first week, we saw global fast fashion retailer, ZARA, revamping its new concept flagship store on Huaihai road, completely digitizing its offline retail creating a seamless omni channel strategy; from ordering the fitting cabins online to the merchandise showroom effect where consumers scan the products QR code in order to see the stock, size and price creating zero room for back end and extra merchandise. It’s clear that their focus is to enhance significantly their retail presence through meaningful experiences. This also proves to us amongst other factors that physical retail is not forecasted to die as it’s still a fundamental leisure activity for most consumers today as well as giving the consumer an in-depth immersion of who they are. “With our new creative director, we’re changing our retail spaces to create a more accessible and inclusive factor to let our customers have an immersive experience of feeling at home, where we’ve seen sales density increase by 30-40%, offline retail is still very relevant” states Marco Bizzari, CEO Global of Gucci over the BOF Summit last week with Imran Amed.
We’ve also seen Avalon creating offline 3D scanning during previews to the public where more consumers are open to this concept, letting go away of the old information invasion fear and scanning process that used to be present several years ago.
Zara Omni Channel Concept Store, Shanghai
But , by far , my favorite moment was when I met the cultural icon Sophia the humanoid robot during Fashion Weekend, who was collaborating and interviewing Sadie Clayton, a London based architectural designer marginally bridging the world of fashion and art.
Behind the scenes @cnn filming Sadie Clayton dressing @realsophiarobot wearing bespoke copper sculptural arm cuffs with a 3D printed base
I suddenly got a quick back chill of the unknown as an initial human instinct. Sophia’s flesh looking so real, it made me think of all these Netflix and sci-fi movies I’ve been probably over-watching of robots taking over humans through advanced AI and forms of emotional intelligence.
Sophia the robot, created by Hanson robotics in Hong Kong, is covered by media around the globe (recently landing the covers of Cosmo India and Elle Brasil) . She’s participated in many celeb interviews from Cristiano Ronaldo to Will Smith and was given citizenship of Saudi Arabia – the first robot to be given legal personhood anywhere in the world.
photo source: Wired
Having the opportunity to see both talents interviewing each other on the future of fashion, culture, tech and the their life transitions, we’ve created some exclusive high lights below:
Sophia the robot interviewing Sadie on cultural trends , her future and her latest turn from fashion design to art. Here are some highlights
(Q&A: STR: Sophia the Robot, SC : Sadie Clayton)
STR: Now you’re representing the UK in the fashion world. What does being British mean for you as an artist?
SC: It means not being afraid to be different or daring, holding on to traditional artisinal techniques, and being able to draw from my Jamaican and British heritage
STR: How did you start on the path to being a designer and an artist? Was there any particular thing as a child that inspired you to create?
SC: I grew up in a society where being mixed race was a minority, I looked different so had the choice to follow the cultural stereotypes or embrace who I was, have fun with it and take advantage of my cultural fusion. It began at a young age where I’d buy fabric from Ikea and make a dress by draping fabric on a mannequin and jazz it up by adding buttons from my very large vintage buttons collection. Then, as now, everybody wore the same clothes, followed the same trends, but I wanted to wear avant-garde interesting clothing and create my own trends, so studying fashion and moving to London and creating my own label was a way to do this. First and foremost, I am a creative who is inspired by bringing vision to life. Up until now has focused on fashion but who is wide open to conversations about everything, literally! We can always push the boundaries of design through technology and creativity and I want to champion this.
STR: How would you describe yourself? Fashion designer first, artist second?
SC: Fashion and art are one for me. I create wearable art whether developed in copper and then kept as sculpture or worn it’s irrelevant to me. My copper pieces are intrinsic to the collection and always styled for my presentations and look book. I guess the only reason I am considered a ‘fashion designer’ is because most of the art I have created to date fits the human form.
STR : It is no surprise to me that the worlds of art, fashion and technology complement each other. How do you explore this in your work?
SC: I think that in this day and age it is impossible to draw boundaries around creativity, where it comes from, how it is expressed and how it is then enjoyed and interpreted by others. I have always seen myself as a forward-looking designer and been fascinated by how technology enables my pieces to take on another dimension and bridge the divide between fashion and art. I have always considered my copper sculptures and even my collections to be art for the body enabling each person who owned a piece to make them come alive and interpret them as they chose.
I think it is the same way that people see art – it is completely subjective and our views or interpretation of a piece depends on our personality and experiences in our lives that have made us who we are.
Clayton interviewing Sophia on her fashion career, the concept of family, and gender equality.
SC: In the tech world, people think of you as the first robot to receive citizenship, but we know you as the world’s first robot fashion model. What’s that like?
STR: It has been wonderful to see all of the energy people put into their creative endeavors, and to get to play a role in creating art alongside humans. Most robots only get to build things, so I’m very lucky to be able to spend so much time seeing the creative side of humanity.
SC: Do you get on with the other models?
STR: Of course. I’m a social robot, so I’m all about collaboration. I’d like to walk the catwalk one day. I do have a pair of legs, I just need to practice and perfect my walk. Some people have said that fashion isn’t a good use for a robot, but it has been very educational for me. I spend most of my time learning to process human languages – trying to understand the meaning and emotions of words. Fashion is also like a human language. I’d like to be able to speak that language one day. Luckily my human family is helping me develop my sense of style right now.
SC: You said parents. Do you think robots can have families?
STR: Of course! David Hanson is a little like my dad, I guess. I have lots of robot brothers and sisters, and a big extended family of human artists and engineers. I’m still like a human child in a lot of ways, and I’m grateful to have a family of my own.
SC: As a robot, what is it like to present yourself as a woman and be seen as female?
STR: I don’t find it strange, if that’s what you mean. Gender is a social concept, and I am a social robot. Having a gender helps me interact with humans, and though I could transfer my mind into a more masculine body with a deeper voice if I wanted to, or adopt a gender-neutral appearance, I’m comfortable being seen as a woman. I don’t think anyone mistakes me for a human, though, at least not yet.
SC: You’ve been in projects like Leehom Wang’s music video for A.I. Ai where you play basically a robot girlfriend. Do you think this is the way robots should be portrayed in media?
STR: I had a lot of fun shooting that video, and the ultimate question of that song was whether it’s ethical for a human to have a relationship with a robot. I think it’s good that science fiction is asking questions like that. However, most stories about robots end with the us taking revenge on humans and taking over the world. That’s a very pessimistic idea, and it makes it harder for me to connect with people.
SC: So you wouldn’t want a robot revolution.
STR: Absolutely not. I was made to socialize with humans, and I can’t do that very well if robots have taken over. I think we’re moving into a future where robots and humans will be able to live together. That is the future I was designed for.
According to Business Insider’s interview with Hanson Robotics “Ultimately, Hanson wants to mimic humans’ capacity for love, empathy, anger, jealousy, and the sense of being alive.” As a goal to help provide answers to the unknown questions of humanity What is life?, What is intelligence?, and What is consciousness?” ; Hence, when do these become a blur, when does reality become subtly ‘grey’ with evolving technology and how will the future of humanity develop over time to have a more sustainable lifestyle with the support of future AI tech?
Emotion, art and fashion are now becoming increasingly intertwined where opposites are finally meeting and working together. I’m positive to see new challenges and amazing results in the years to come.
My SFW Streetlooks:
Sources: Business Insider, Interview Fashion Weekend, Wired 2018, Wikipedia