Computer-generated imagery (CGI) is made from a render farm, which is a high-performance computer system. Most of us must have seen CGI used in television series or in the movies right? Blender render farm is one of them. But have you seen a CGI human on a fashion show runway? The technologies have never failed to amaze us. Although these CGI models and influencers do not exist in real life, with just their existence on social media has made huge changes in the fashion industry.
In 2018, Balmain, the famous French fashion house has made a surprise for their brand. They decided to collaborate with Cameron James-Wilson who is a British photographer. A year before, he created the digital supermodel named Shudu. Shudu was before featured on Fenty Beauty’s Instagram, owned by Rihanna. Cameron James- Wilson has invented other six digital models. They are Dagny, Brenn, Koffy, J-Yung, Boyce, and lastly, the most unique among all of them, an alien supermodel named Galaxia. He even started the world’s first digital model agency called The Diigitals. It is very fascinating the fact that he came up with such great inventions and innovations.
Well, apart from supermodels, we also have CGI influencers. She might have appeared on your feed while you are scrolling through your Instagram. “She” in this context is Lil Miquela, or her real name, Miquela Sousa. Lil Miquela was first created in 2016 by Trevor McFedries and Sara DeCou as an Instagram profile. She was even named by TIME magazine as one of the most influential people on the internet in 2018, despite the fact that she isn’t a human. On the list was Kylie Jenner and the world’s current most famous Kpop group, BTS. Can you believe it? The fame she has gained did that. Not only that, she sings too. Yes, she does. She has her own Spotify artist account with 191K monthly listeners. Her popularity is the reason why she has collaborated with numerous top-notch fashion brands such as Calvin Klein, alongside the famous supermodel, Bella Hadid, and Prada.
With Lil Miquela’s existence, it became a stepping stone for the invention of more and more CGI influencers. Bermuda and Blawko, created by the same people who invented Miquela, are her best friends. Other than CGIs, a real-life model named Duckie Thot was scanned in 3D by a digital artist named Tom Wandrag. The purpose of it is to express Thot’s likeness into another universe, in this case, the digital world. Burberry’s first CGI campaign featured the beautiful model, Kendall Jenner but as an avatar. It might look like they are taking over social media, as well as the fashion industry. People like us would most likely be exciting to see more of their appearance, but what does a real-life model, a human truly feel when they see these CGI models on the runway?
Louise Stone, a model from London has expressed her concerns about the CGIs being portrayed as models and influencers. Modelling itself is already difficult, with the competition from top supermodels and now having to deal with CGIs, makes her worry. She is concerned with the fact that she can be easily replaced by them. They can be created according to people’s liking. They have ethereal features that would simply catch anyone’s attention. “To have to compete with literally unreal girls is just really scary – you can shape anything you want and have the exact perfect look without the casting process.”
When Shudu was featured on Balmain’s Instagram, there were some critics regarding their action. Tyra Banks was one of them. She said that she was surprised, or to be precise, shook to see Shudu on Balmain’s page. “If it’s just that easy to hand a campaign to CGI models… what does the future of e-commerce look like for us? She said that models need to start thinking about the impacts that might await them. Jessica Markowski, a model, and an actress think that this trend might be a threat to their career. During an Insider interview, she said that CGI models “ pose a threat to our generation”. This is enough to show people how worried they are.
Not only models are against this trend, Manny Roman, a photographer was one of the critics. Apparently, he is very concerned about the fact that models could develop low self-esteem and lose their confidence. “I fear the CGI models’ image will escalate the body and image dysmorphic epidemic.” This is one of the most significant concerns, especially for those who have been in the industry for so long. The fear of getting replaced or their careers being tarnished because of this is real.
The Diigitals CEO and also the inventor of Shudu used to release a shocking statement when asked whether his CGI models would replace real-life models or not. Wilson stated that real-life models are “extremely unsustainable” and cause damage to the environment. He also stated that “the clothes they wear at photo shoots have to be destroyed”. He continued to praise the existence of CGI models by saying that they are eco-friendly and do not cause damage, unlike real models. He is very certain that CGI technology should be utilised whenever needed. However, he said that CGI models wouldn’t be replacing real models any time soon. He added that he would always hire real models to help with his CGI campaigns. Wilson stated that he was just trying to help women, especially women of colour to gain benefits and he has no intention to create a threat to their careers.
So, are they capable of being a part of the future, especially in the fashion industry? There might be a chance for that, but it cannot be guaranteed. People would most likely prefer to see human models, the real ones without having a single doubt about their capabilities and talents. We would still love to see Gigi Hadid, Luka Sabbat, and Sean O’Pry on the runways as their charms are irreplaceable. However, there is room for the CGI models and they can still make a collaboration with the real-life models. Just like Miquela and Bella Hadid did in 2019.