Can CGI or virtual models truly replace humans in fashion campaigns?

  • Style
  • Monday, 19 Oct 2020

Charles & Keith’s current campaign for example, makes use of digitally created visuals. These are termed as “hyper-realistic illustrations”. Photo: Charles & Keith

Fashion, like any other industry, is not immune to the encroachment of technology. As much as automation has taken over manufacturing, computer generated-imagery (CGI) is edging out live models.

This is not something totally new. The Covid-19 pandemic just brought the idea of virtual models back into the limelight. There isn’t a need to adhere to physical distancing restrictions if you don’t have a proper fashion shoot.

While some labels resorted to having their models photograph themselves at home during lockdown, others did away with actual human beings altogether. A practical solution indeed.

Read more: Photoshoots move into a new direction with models now taking charge

Charles & Keith’s current campaign for example, makes use of digitally created visuals. These are termed as “hyper-realistic illustrations” by the accessories brand. They depict a range of scenes with stunning and rich details.

Magazines went a similar route early in the year. The March edition of Vogue Italia featured a cast of models created by photographers, who digitally merged and manipulated the images of multiple participating human models.

The Bureau, a London agency that connects fit models (people used as live mannequins to check the draping and aesthetic of clothes) to brands, is reportedly aiming to expand into this new market.

It already photographs each model on a 360-degree turntable to gather precise measurements. The plan is to now allow specific models to be licensed out for a digital design process, where they can then continue to make money without being physically present.

WHAT IS REAL TODAY? Introducing the first Vogue Italia imaginary cover girl. On newsstands tomorrow. Photography @MertAlas and @MacPiggott Fashion @GiorgioArmani Styling @LottaVolkova “As our March issue appears on newsstands, the streets of Milan are almost deserted. A contagious virus has spread in just a few hours, forcing the closure of museums, bars, schools and offices. For a currently unknown period of time, people will have to avoid physical social interaction and, if possible, stay at home. In a paradoxical twist, reality has now caught up with, and overtaken the idea that gave rise to the issue you are about to read. As a precaution or for security, out of paranoia, laziness or convenience, we live in an age where physical experiences are in fact discouraged, turning them into an increasingly rare occurrence. Nowadays it seems dispensable, or even hazardous, to see, touch and speak to each other without the mediation of a computer screen. But, we wondered, if real life becomes an existence filtered by a screen, what does ‘real’ mean today? It is the question that inspired this month’s cover, which – created by the visionary talent of the photographers Mert and Marcus and our creative director Ferdinando Verderi – is the first in the magazine’s history to be dedicated to a girl who doesn’t exist. At least in real life.” #EmanueleFarneti See more via link in bio. Full credits: Editor in chief @EFarneti Creative director @FerdinandoVerderi Casting directors @pg_dmcasting @samuel_ellis @ DM Fashion Studio Hair @MustafaYanaz @artandcommerce MakeUp @_GeorginaGraham @managementartists Manicure @LaurenMichellePires @dandvmanagement Set design @migsbento @streetersagency Casting @midlandagency Production @palmproductionsglobal #whatisreal

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Face off

According to a report by AI-powered Instagram account authenticity checking platform, HypeAuditor, virtual models outperformed human influencers in 2019. This includes most engagement categories across social media.

The big challenge is that virtual models do incur a cost.

While the term artificial intelligence (AI) is sometimes used to describe them, they cannot act on their own free will and require the help of experienced 3-D artists.

CGI models like Shudu, Imma and Miquela Sousa have taken the fashion world by storm since their debut. Their success have led to other virtual models being created.

Read more: Strike a pose! These models aren't real, but their success sure is lifelike

Serah Reika (France), Aliona Pole (Russia), Kim Zulu (South Africa) and Lila Ziyagil (Turkey) are just a few of the many names trying to cash in on the trend.

While they may not be as famous as Shudu, Imma or Sousa, it shows that there is a need for CGI fashion campaigns. And no matter how much real models are decrying the shift in demand, it seems that virtual models are here to stay.

Closer to home, we have South-east Asian virtual model Maya, who made her debut just this year. It has to be said however, that she was created by a sportswear label for marketing purposes.

But who knows? Perhaps Malaysia will soon have its own independent digital fashion face of its own?

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