French fashion house, Balmain, made waves by introducing the new faces of their Balmain Army – Shudu, Margot and Zhi. This disruptive move was met with mixed reviews as the three new models are, in fact, completely digital.

 

In our previous blog post, we discussed how artificial intelligence (AI) will influence traditional marketing campaigns. This month we take a closer look at how AI can potentially shake up an entirely different creative industry.

French fashion house, Balmain, made waves by introducing the new faces of their Balmain Army – Shudu, Margot and Zhi. This disruptive move was met with mixed reviews as the three new models are, in fact, completely digital.

Where did CGI fashion models come from?

The world’s first digital supermodel, Shudu, was created by London-based photographer, Cameron-James Wilson. Wilson’s work was the creative spark behind Balmain’s latest campaign which features Shudu and two more CGI models, Margot and Zhi. The three models are definitely not the last of this phenomenon that is taking the industry by storm. For example, Time magazine included another mysterious, yet entirely digital, fashion influencer on their list of the 25 most influential people on the internet – Lil Miquela. Miquela boasts with an Instagram following of 1.4 million followers. Fans of Lil Miquela can’t seem to get enough of her. They treat her implicit artifice like an afterthought and devour her online musings as if she was in fact human.

Shudu and Lil Miquela emerge at a time in which Instagram, Snapchat filters and photo-editing apps that rely on artificial intelligence technology have blurred the lines between fantasy and reality, turning ordinary people into illusive characters we strive to look like.
CGI models have opened the door for new marketing opportunities, however, they carry serious implications beyond the glitzy fashion world.

Industry boom

Many fashion industry insiders claim that there is enough room for digital models and real human models whereas others have a different take on the matter altogether. A quick Google search unearthed a British company launched in April 2018 and is marketing itself as an alternative to human models. This company in particular states that it can “design” any face to fit any marketing campaign. Another upside according to the company’s website is that digital models “never argue, need to eat, throw tantrums or get tired” – all completely human actions…

What’s at stake for real people

People don’t connect with cartoon like characters and when it comes to aesthetics we exhibit symptoms of the Uncanny Valley.
The Uncanny Valley is a hypothesized relationship between the degree of an object’s resemblance to a human being and the emotional response to such an object. The concept of the Uncanny Valley suggests humanoid objects which appear almost, but not exactly, like real human beings elicit uncanny, or strangely familiar, feelings of eeriness and revulsion in observers. Valley denotes a dip in the human observer’s affinity for the replica, a relation that otherwise increases with the replica’s human likeness.

Regardless of this response in humans, should avatars start looking like real people, which is entirely the case with the Balmain Army and Lil Miquela, it will inevitably affect the industry a lot and it’s only a matter of time before this trend spills over to other industries.
What do you think? Would you like to see more digital models in ad campaigns or does it make you uncomfortable?

Tell us in the comments.