Future-friendly Danish brand Heliot Emil dabbles in AI to realise a spring/summer '24 collection that distils the brand down to its dystopian essence
While a handful of designers have dabbled in AI for SS24, it seemed pleasingly inevitable in the case of Heliot Emil. After all, the Danish brand’s entire aesthetic revels in a minimal futurism. “Instead of being afraid of the future, we should think about how we can utilise it,” says creative director Julius Juul. “We should think of how we can benefit from technology rather than immediately saying, ‘Oh, it’s going to replace us’.” In this case, Juul, who founded the brand with his brother Victor in 2017, fed Heliot Emil’s buckle-heavy black-and-white oeuvre through an algorithm and tinkered with the designs that spit out the other end.
But wait, there’s a twist! Not every look in the lineup came courtesy of the algorithm, which was developed with the help of a couple computer engineers. The collection itself serves as a Turing test, created by mathematician and philosopher Alan Turing to determine if a machine can exhibit the same intelligence as a human. In Heliot Emil’s case, we are left to decipher which looks are generated by the algorithm and which are brand new designs, sprung from Juul’s human mind and realised with futuristic tools like laser-cutting and 3D printing (it isn’t a perfect test – these “original” designs were fed into the algorithm as well, putting their mark on the rest of the collection). “Obviously, we’re a bit crazy,” Juul admits. “Sometimes you push the boundaries. If you’re not getting a reaction from people, you’re sort of the same old same.”
Still, all 74 looks are firmly, unmistakably Heliot Emil. Slinky tops with asymmetric straps, utilitarian trousers and sharp-shouldered blazers with metal details. Top-to-toe leather looks plucked from a dystopian film. Silver carabiner buckles and zippers. “I learned some of our signatures,” Juul said. “Some signatures that I didn’t 100 per cent trust or recognise, the machine understands it’s a clear signature.”
But in distilling Heliot Emil down to its very core via a robot-led feedback loop, something interesting happened: a less prescient minimalism emerged. In the high-necked vests and draped dresses, the more relaxed suiting – still thoughtfully tailored, mind you – and form-hugging turtlenecks, we find a welcome whiff of the 90s (the simple, centre-parted straight hair certainly didn’t detract from the feeling). Juul explains that there’s a mathematical reason for the result; the algorithm culls “similar” imagery from the internet in creating its new designs, and there are many more minimal images from the 90s than there are from the future.
Is Juul concerned he’ll one day be replaced by technology altogether? He grins a bit mischievously and says, “Maybe I am.”
See the full Heliot Emil spring/summer '24 collection below: