In 2017, Cameron-James Wilson created a CGI supermodel Shudu, which looks so real, many people wouldn't even recognize that it is a digital image. CGI influencers and digital fashion shows have already been here for a while, however only now, with Covid-19 and national lockdowns, has the idea of going remote become more popular and recognized. This year, several fashion weeks all over the world switched to a digital form. Some created short films or clips, others used digital models. In all ways, the pandemic allowed creators and designers to express themselves more creatively and freely.
Marketing and social media
CGI influencers don't have to follow the same rules as real people on social media, so their creators could use it to their advantage. It can also be more appealing for brands to work with CGI influencers as it is easier than working with real people, who have busy schedules and personal “human” problems. There are billions of dollars used on influencers and their social media profiles every year and studies show 39% of all Instagram profiles belong to influencers. Therefore, with an improving quality and easier access to CGI programs, we may be able to see more and more profiles with digital influencers. However, as technology gets better and better it might be more difficult to recognize whether or not the profile belongs to a CGI model or a real person, which may be abused in the future and what you think is a human with free will, will turn out to be 6 people behind a desk creating a story.
End of real models?
Last year, ASOS experimented with augmented reality and created a virtual catwalk for their products. All customers had to do was point their phone camera on any empty flat surface and the app would show a CGI model wearing their chosen clothes. Balmain has also introduced CGI models Margot, Zhi and Shudu in several of their campaigns.
Yet, the idea of going full on digital in fashion still carries positive and negative comments and each brand has its own opinion about how far they are willing to go with it. Some short films created by brands for this year’s fashion weeks are interesting to watch, but after you watch six or seven of them you can easily start losing interest. The catwalks are missing the applause and the audience who comments on new trends. The excitement is not big enough when you watch the shows in your own living room.
Besides, some designers are not keen on using digital models for their shows, they would rather have real people with personalities and stories. However, can't CGI models have a background and a story too? Their statuses and posts on social media often depict their “feelings” and “life struggles”, even though they are probably created by someone sitting at an office.
Modelling is a very competitive industry and now with literally perfect unreal models on the scene, it might become even more difficult for real models to succeed. On the other hand, designers supporting CGI models claim, it would help the fashion world become more eco-responsible and sustainable.
As brands start working with animations, there is a lot of learning from both sides. Even in digital world, you must know where the seams are and how the fabric drapes and flows. When an animation is created, the real fabric weight and drape must be analyzed and calculated against certain measures, and all the details should be noted. There certainly is much to improve, but with fast progressing technology, it might not take too long to see digital fashion working in our everyday lives.
For now, real models will not lose their jobs just yet. But real people and CGI may soon live around us, without consumers finding it too unnatural.
Instagram influencers to look at