Keeping it IRL, I’m a little bit torn on this topic.
There’s no denying that technological advancements in fashion have advanced our experiences as consumers.
Just last weekend, I stopped into a Fleet Feet with my fiancé to take a look at new running shoe options. The sales associate immediately had Jen step into a 3D fit id foot scanner to guide his decisions about shoes that would best fit her foot. Within minutes, a 3D scan of Jen’s feet popped up on the sales associate’s iPad. He disappeared into the stockroom to retrieve shoes with a fit that would complement Jen’s high arch and supinating feet (in case supinating is a word new to you, too). The result? Jen is killing her workouts in her new kicks! Really, she has commented, “The fit of these new shoes is making all the difference!”
This real life scenario is just one more example of how 3D scans can enhance the fit of our clothes and help designers get the kind of fit that will best serve their customers. But take yourself out of your IRL body for a moment and imagine this process in reverse. Now that we’ve figured out how to use technology to fit the actual human body, photographers, influencers, brands and designers are creating a virtual fashion world from scratch in which we all may be living in one day.
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She’s approaching 175,000 followers on Instagram. She walked the red carpet at the Baftas. She’s the face of the likes of Fenty and Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain army. And get this, Shudu is the 100% virtual creation of photographer Cameron-James Wilson.
Shudu is the world’s first virtual supermodel and she’s part of a growing trend. In fact, she is one of 6 virtual supermodels now “signed” to an all digital modeling agency, The Diigitals. According to Wilson, creator of Shudu and her agency,
“Here at the Diigitals, we are utilising the rising accessibility of new technologies and taking the first steps into a new frontier of digital exploration. Within this collaborative hub, we will demonstrate the potential of 3D fashion modelling and showcase its applications for innovative brands. Acting as both a showroom to illustrate possibilities and a gallery where a portfolio of diverse digital identities can be appreciated, The Diigitals erases the boundaries between reality and the digital.”
And here is where I become torn on the topic of “erasing the boundaries between reality and the digital.”
On first thought, I love the idea of visually creating anyone or anything (clothing included) our minds can dream up. But as I start to think about Shudu’s rise in popularity, I can’t help but think of how her existence might affect the fashion industry at large one day. While a human is responsible for Shudu’s existence, Shudu had started to take on a life of her own, which could cost IRL models, marketers and designers their jobs.
Virtual models don’t have bills to pay or need travel arrangements and accommodations to take part in a photoshoot. In other words, booking a virtual model may be a cost effective option when it comes to marketing campaigns. But at what cost? Real models lose out on opportunities for work, not to mention the risks we run in reversing all the progress we’ve made in terms of celebrating real bodies.
When it comes to selling clothing, the fact that many live their lives virtually as social media influencers is beginning to change the way clothing is designed, sold and worn as well. Designers have started to create virtual collections, perfect for those influencers who have built their brands based on “outfits of the day.” Rarely repeating a look becomes much easier when you can send a designer a photo and have an outfit designed digitally to be worn the next day (and at a fraction of the cost of IRL clothing).
Take Swedish brand Carlings, for example. For the low cost of $10 – $30, you can send a photo, select a Carlings design and it’s yours to wear on Instagram. Here’s how it works:
On the upside, think of how this type of clothing reduces IRL waste from the fashion industry, a cause Carlings stands firmly behind. And just imagine…those who covet brands usually far out of their price range, may be able to afford a virtual piece of Balmain, Chanel or Prada, etc.
But as educators who see such value in the art and craft of clothing made to fit on actual human bodies, we will always advocate for valuing both the technological advancements in our industry as well as the irreplaceable contributions of the makers in fashion. We value all designers’ work whether conceived on a dress form, pattern table or in Photoshop. We also advocate for discussion and thought around the ethical decisions we will make as the world around us changes, so please feel free to share your comments on this topic below. We look forward to hearing from you.