The CGI Takeover

 Beauty, Emulated | Bell Favakeh

Beauty, Emulated | Bell Favakeh

Everyone is curious about the latest trend in fall fashion. No, it’s not botox or thigh-high boots. It’s the almost disturbingly lifelike computer-generated imagery models.

You’ve seen them all over Instagram, and more recently featured in campaigns for Fenty, Prada, Chanel, Vogue, and now Balmain. The 3D creations are sparking some controversy, while many people are wondering what this new wave means for human models.

You have probably seen computer-generated imagery (CGI) models like Lil Miquela and Shudu around quite a bit. Perhaps you didn’t even realize they were CGI models at first. They have certainly proven interesting to look at and important to pay attention to. So much so that Balmain has decided to add three of these CGI models to their 2018 pre-fall offerings; Shudu, Zhi, and Margot.

Wilson claims to have created [Shudu] based on his idea of what the most beautiful woman in the world would look like. He made her long and slender with petite features and dark skin.

Shudu is the first of her kind, created by photographer Cameron-James Wilson. Wilson claims to have created her based on his idea of what the most beautiful woman in the world would look like. He made her long and slender with petite features and dark skin. The dark skin part surprised people, as Wilson is a white man. It even sparked some controversy, as people didn’t know how they felt about a white man being the creator and controller of a black female CGI model.

Of course, the controversy stems from more than just the creation of Shudu. It follows the creation of all CGI models.

On one hand, the inventions are creative masterpieces and a new take on technology. On the other hand, it’s derailing opportunity for other human models, especially those who aren’t hired as often or as easily; like black models and plus-size models. Shouldn’t we be focused on creating equal opportunity for the women who are in need of more representation, before we start man-making models to take their potential place?

On one hand, the inventions are creative masterpieces and a new take on technology. On the other hand, it’s derailing opportunity for other human models, especially those who aren’t hired as often or as easily; like black models and plus-size models.

Balmain has heard this controversy and responded on its website, “Anyone and everyone is always welcome to join the Balmain army’s growing ranks - they need only share our bold spirit of adventure as our virtual icons.”

Although a nice sentiment, Balmains response is barely believable and almost laughable.

If all it takes to become a Balmain model is a bold spirit then I’m sure their runways and billboards would look much different. It seems models must possess a bold set of facial features, long limbs and a tiny torso instead -- like they do on most other high fashion labels. It appears they are more concerned with creating a specific, cisgendered, fair skinned, skinny aesthetic than they are with bold spirits. How does a robot possess a bold spirit anyway?

So, the controversy is understandable. People feel as though the fashion industry is showing their true, arguably superficial, colors. While it probably comes as no surprise, it’s still a sort of slap in the face for those models who are working so hard to obtain the same opportunities that the typical model receives. Computer generated images are landing gigs over actual human models, and they can’t even walk a runway.

Yet,  there’s absolutely something backwards and a bit offensive about it.