Are Digital Models Taking Over?

Welcome to the future of fashion

Breaking into the modeling scene isn’t an easy task. Thousands of girls are grinding just to get photo shoots and a shot at the catwalk. With the recent rise of digital models, those in the fashion industry worry that real life model could be put out of work.

Digital models first gained popularity with Lil Miquela. Created in 2016, she followed in the steps of Lightning, a model used frequently by Louis Vuitton.

Lil Miquela’s ‘creator’ places the digitized model on top of real life elements, and at times, with real people. Instagram users became obsessed with trying to find out who Lil Miquela was based off of but her true identity or creator has yet to be revealed.

Fast forward to 2017 when Shudu was created. This Instagram model gained traction after Fenty Beauty reposted a photo with Shudu wearing bright tangerine lipstick.

 Shudu came under scrutiny after it was revealed that her creator, Cameron-James Wilson, was white. Many accused Wilson of creating her for profit instead of hiring a black model to begin with.

In an interview with High Snobiety, Wilson states that most of this criticism has come from white women while dark skinned girls and woman told him they appreciated his art.

The use of digital models was taken one step further when the creative director of Balmain, Olivier Rousteing, used digital models in a recent campaign. Rousteing enlisted the help of Wilson who placed Shudu front and center and flanked two new models on her side- Margot and Zhi. All three models have been made honorary members of the #BALMAINARMY.

Modeling agencies and other experts, dealing with body image, were quick to slam Rousteing’s decision equating it to airbrushing models. They believe that this increases the level of perfection humans are supposed to have.

As valid as that argument is, and I’m all for body positivity, it fails to realize that with this technology, we can create anything. Using digital models shows just how far our technology has come and I can’t tell you how excited I am to see these advancements.

We can’t fault people for being worried about the new direction digital models could take us. This is a new, unknown venture. With this type of model still in its infancy, there’s so much room to grow and mold it into a positive experience for consumers and viewers.

What we should all remember is this is an artistic creation. One in which, if supported, can become a field for so many people to enter into and create a diverse cast of models.

The hyper-realistic element of these models is what has made those in the industry worry that models would be put out of work. While this is a valid worry to have, Wilson doesn’t think that’s happening any time soon.

It takes Wilson three days to make one photo. If a designer wanted to use Shudu, or any other digital model, the clothes would also have to be rendered in 3D. All this boils down to one point- this is a laborious task.

It’s completely possible that one day digital models will become more widely used, but that won’t be anytime soon. In the meantime, we should enjoy this new artistic direction taking form in the fashion world.

Be careful where you look because the next influencer you seen on Instagram or the next model in that campaign may not be real.

Cover Image via Elle


Also published on Medium.

Davyn is a journalism student at Arizona State University. During her free...