Pinterest’s New AI Technology Aims to Make Fashion Search Results More Size-Inclusive

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It’s a good step in the right direction on what is still a very long journey ahead.

As Fashion Week begins, so sets in an unsettling reality: The size-inclusivity pendulum has clearly started swinging in the wrong direction. The presence of plus-size models on the runway seemed to surge a few years ago, only to noticeably dwindle in recent seasons. It’s disheartening and it’s disappointing, but it’s not a sign of defeat when other voices in fashion are making an attempt to prioritize size inclusivity — namely, Pinterest

Pinterest announced on Thursday, September 7, that it has rolled out new AI technology that can identify various body types among the billions of images across the virtual vision-boarding platform. The goal is to shape how its algorithms “increase representation across related feeds and search results for women’s fashion and wedding-related content,” according to a press release. In other words, you should start seeing more images of mid- and plus-size bodies without having to type in those terms in the search bar.

“Pinterest users have been looking for more representation on the platform without the need to use qualifying terms in their searches,” says Pinterest’s head of inclusive product, Annie Ta, who notes that this seemed like the natural next step after Pinterest’s previous strides in inclusivity technology, such as beauty search results filtered by skin tone and hair texture. “We worked closely with our plus-size creators to shape the product development and ensure a better product experience for Pinners.”

That collaboration began less than a year ago, Ta says. “At that time, we were simply trying to understand how Pinners were using our product and how our products failed them,” she explains. And now that it has launched, Ta says, “We improved representation of different bodies by 454 percent on women’s fashion-related searches and 772 percent on women’s fashion-related feeds.”

Those are extremely impressive numbers, but based on our own searches, the difference may not be immediately apparent. Our searches for “wedding guest looks,” “apple picking outfits,” and “game day styles” brought up images of predominantly thin and white women. That said, searches for “fall fashion” and “summer looks” produce more diverse results. 

When Allure reached out to Pinterest for clarification on whether or not the new technology is fully active yet, a representative shared that “the experience hasn’t rolled out to all searches yet,” and you may see results that are more representative of some bodies than others. “Since we just started rolling out these changes, you can expect the experience to improve over the next couple of months.”  

Contributing to a lack of diverse results may also be the simple need for more content from more diverse content creators — and Pinterest is also working on that. The platform’s Creator Inclusion Fund seeks to support the success of historically marginalized creators, such as those in the plus-size fashion category. From now until September 17, 2023, creators may use this form to apply to be chosen for expert training, resources, and financial support.

Ultimately, the intentions are very good, but like Pinterest’s well-meaning previous efforts that go above and beyond what many others are doing — including banning weight-loss ads but not being able to eliminate more stealthy “health” posts — the outcome isn’t a complete solution. Hopefully, we’ll see some improvement in the results moving forward, especially because size-inclusivity would be enthusiastically welcomed in other categories, like beauty. (Let’s see manicures on fat hands, hair colors framing chubby cheeks, etc., please!) But thankfully, Pinterest does seem aware of that need and invested in making it happen.

As Ta puts it, “We hope to expand body type technology to more categories and countries in the future.” 

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