Balmain Heads Up the Digital Model Revolution

Shudu, Margot and Zhi Source: Harper's Bazaar Have you ever been terrified that the machines would soon be stealing your job? Well, you should be. Balmain, a prominent fashion house in France has unveiled three new models, and they are 100% artificial. The world, predictably, has reacted with a mixture of awe and horror, likely in much the way that was desired. After all, where there is no controversy, there is no reason for people to pay attention. The three models are called Shudu, Margot and Zhi, and appear much as one would expect models to be. Which is to say, aggressively embodying the physical characteristics that are held dear by the fashion industry as a whole. Razor sharp cheekbones are a key element, though at least they cannot be accused of not eating right, given that they eat nothing at all.

First Came Shudu

One 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 Models

Previously, 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 Direction

How 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.
Categories: Technology
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