Fashion in Pixels

Technology and its constant evolution are at the forefront of every industry, and fashion is no exception. From places as familiar as social media to the unknown territory of digital clothing you have to be photoshopped into to wear, the advancements are not slowing down. And while technology is certainly a more sustainable option, is it always the best option?

For years now, CGI modelling has been used in fashion. Many know of Shudu, the South-African Instagram model known for her full lips and close-cropped hair. Many have called her the most beautiful woman in the world, which showcases the problem with hershe isn’t real.

Shudu is a CGI model, meaning she was created on a computer just like the cars in Transformers. She cannot speak or move without her creator, Cameron-James Wilson, typing in the command. On the face of it, CGI models are extremely exciting, a testament to how far technology has come. They don’t have to be flown to different cities for a photo shoot, they don’t have to have clothes measured to them, and they’ll never get tired or cranky on set. However, CGI models are literally perfect looking. Shudu’s pores are nonexistent, her face perfectly symmetrical. She is tall and thin, almost impossibly so. For decades, many have claimed that featuring only thin bodies and clear skin has a negative effect on self-esteem, and this was when models were alive and breathing. Now, technology has the ability to create the perfect model, something no human being can ever replicate. CGI models also take up space in a job market not made for them. Real models are losing hiring opportunities to computerized ones. In an industry woefully excluding of Black women, Shudu is exploiting a void she shouldn’t have access to.

But Instagram isn’t the only place we’re seeing computer-generated fashion. Just two weeks ago, Burberry released a new CGI ad campaign for their summer monogram, featuring an avatar of Kendall Jenner. And while the dynamic logo took center stage, that’s not what captivated viewers.

On its face, the use of CGI advertisements seems like a natural solution to a global pandemic. There’s very little human interaction, there’s no travel required, no fittings, no hair, and no makeup. However, the creation process takes much longer. Anifa Mvuemba of Hanifa Bridal Tweeted that the animation process took nearly seven months for her to create her Instagram Live fashion show, the Pink Label.

CGI as a tool for showing fashion is very clever, especially during this time. However, the use of CGI avatars can do more harm than good, creating unattainable archetypes for the “perfect woman,” while Mvuemba’s use of apparition-like creatures wearing her designs focuses solely on the pieces she shows. Oftentimes we are distracted by the models or the set design when watching a fashion show, but Mvuemba creates an organic experience for the fashion-conscious.

One thing is for sure, with no slowing down of Covid-19, we’re sure to see more CGI across our feeds, and only time will tell if it’s worth it.