Balmain Heads Up the Digital Model Revolution
First Came ShuduOne of the digital models, Shudu, is a digital representation of an African woman. She was revealed prior to the others, and was initially met with a positive response. Shudu’s social media accounts managed to attract around 140,000 followers. But, when it was revealed that the digital model did not run her own social media accounts, and the job was the handiwork of a British photographer named Cameron-James Wilson, there was a rather big backlash. Many were indignant about Wilson being a British man, and not African at all, and the fact that he was responsible for creating the computer-generated creation and passing it off as the real thing was, in many people’s eyes, almost duplicitous. Following the backlash, some remarked that Wilson should have simply stayed in the shadows, and let followers remain fixed in the illusion that Shudu was real.
Two New ModelsPreviously, Balmain has featured models such as Rihanna, Gigi Hadid, and Kendall Jenner, which drew much of its own attention. But with the revealing of Margot and Zhi, it seems that the real world ladies will have to take a back seat. At least for the moment. Margot is a representation of a Caucasian woman, complete with razor cheekbones of her own, as well as light blue eyes. Zhi is more Asian in her design, although likewise features the model cheekbones of legend. Their specific features and physical design was also created by Wilson, but the clothing they wear has been intricately re-mastered by CLO Virtual Fashion. The result is, for the most part, convincing, although the popular term ‘uncanny valley’ has been thrown around, which refers to artificial human figures that are more creepy than convincing.
Heading Up A New DirectionHow far the success of the three digital women reaches remains to be seen, but given that they have already caused so much controversy, and hence drawn so much attention to Balmain, one could argue that they have already done their jobs. But, as to how long they will remain in the spotlight is yet still a mystery. The French fashion house is a firm favourite among celebrities, with the likes of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian being regular customers. Most of us would need to win big at a casino in order to be able to afford their fashions, as they all come with designer price tags. In 2015 a new line of fashion items sold out in just minutes, proving that Balmain already has a strong, dedicated customer base. As to whether Zhi, Margot and Shudu improve sales is arguable, but as long as Kim and Kanye get their clothing there, the brand likely don’t have much to worry about. The world will watch with interest to see if digital models as a new trend catch on. If it does, it is all but guaranteed that other fashion houses will quickly follow suit.