Is AI Taking Over The Catwalk?
A few months ago, I came upon the most peculiar Instagram account. At first glance, she seemed like a beautiful fashion influencer. But something felt off-putting. Maybe it was her flawless and extensively freckled skin? Or perhaps her airbrushed hair? I found my answer as I looked at her bio. 19/Robot/LA.
With 2.6 million Instagram followers, Miquela, an AI ‘influencer’, seems like any other fashion blogger. She may be artificial, but the fashion world has fully embraced her. Prada, for Milan Fashion Week 2018, collaborated with Miquela, who posted herself wearing the spring/summer collection. Miquela was also on the list of ‘25 Most Influential People on the Internet’ by TIME in 2018.
And it’s not just Prada nor is it just Miquela. Fashion giants like Balmain and Vogue are also in the competition to get a hold of these models, including Shudu, who is allegedly the world’s first digital supermodel.
Shudu is representative of these beautiful, highly- realistic figures on social media, created for the sole purpose of gaining followers and making money. And it’s working — all of these beauties have landed with partnerships with the biggest names in fashion, such as Balmain, Calvin Klein, Vogue and Dior. They’ve starred alongside celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Bella Hadid and Zendaya too.
So What’s The Catch?
Fashion has always been drawn to models that are slicker, more perfect versions of ourselves. And these robots do not disappoint. What’s more, some of them are better looking. There’s one main reason why these influencers are favoured over their human counterparts and that is complete control. The faceless creators of these robots get to decide how these influencers dress or act, and who they collaborate with. They also get to keep all the money that these influencers make from their brand deals.
There are obvious advantages with these models. They are never late, the clothes always fit, mistakes can easily be edited out, and they don’t need to be paid. These robots have a clear stance on political issues, lifestyle choices and appeal to a desirable demographic. With their increasing follower count, these models cannot possibly be associated with any troubling accounts, and they’re not likely to say something that could affect the company. So they prove to be a safe bet for brands.
So far, there are a few of these successful Instagram accounts. Are these high-resolution Instagram influencers really coming for your jobs?
It is also surprising how well they blend in among real people. It has already become very hard to tell them apart and as technology improves, they will be completely indistinguishable from humans.
On the plus side, it is argued, these models will make the shopping experience better. Companies maintain that these robot models could make fashion more sustainable. They claim that AI makes it easier to respond to manufacturing in real-time, responding to the customer’s tastes, and so waste is minimal.
This Isn’t The Diversity We Asked For
A lot of criticism revolves around these virtual models. Conversations about diversity and representation had already begun in the fashion industry; they wanted plus-size models, models of colour, not robots.
“Brands don’t seem to care who you are — or what you are, in this case — as long as you can push a product to thousands and thousands of people.”Grace Victory
These robots have been made to be pixel-perfect, in an industry that pressures women to be perfect. Many fashion journalists find the emergence of these picture-perfect models problematic, stating their concern over how they will influence young girls to envy a life that does not exist outside of social media.
The emergence of these CGI influencers raises questions on the future of fashion and what is to come. Just because they’re not real, do they not deserve a place on social media? Perhaps there’s plenty of room for both.