Gigi, Bella, Kendall, move along! There’s a new CGI model army in town, taking Balmain by storm.
In the next few years, 2018 is going to be referred to as the year IRL models became old news. Case in point, fashion house Balmain and its fresh-out-the-oven campaign #BALMAINPF18. Look closely; something is different.
For those with a soft spot for tech pop-culture or an Instagram account really, Sudu (@shudu.gram) looks nothing but unfamiliar, with the “Explore” page brimming with visual inspo from her latest editorials. What many may not know though, is that Shudu has a CGI-manifested DNA and lives only behind our screens. The self-proclaimed “world’s first digital Supermodel” is the stunning creation of photographer Cameron-James Wilson, with whom Balmain got in touch for its upcoming fashion shenanigans.
Creative Director Olivier Rousteing, turned to Wilson to help create a CGI army of models – a brilliant move that undeniably raises the stakes for all other brands, and ups the pressure on fashion’s relationship with innovation.
Wilson, according to brief, brought to life two new colleagues for Shudu: Margot and Zhi, portraying a trio of racial inclusivity, while the virtual garments were created by CLO agency.
Looking back at the brief history of Insta-pooled artists, we can’t erase the path Gucci paved for the creative mavericks of the platform (who had already shed blood, sweat, and tears for their progressive art) when they coupled up pop-culture and subversive talent for their #TFWGucci 2017 campaign. Yes, Gucci was a great teacher, but Balmain is a greater student for featuring two more “custom” models, for a world-first appearance. And bear in mind that given their CGI nature – a topic so hot lately – the campaign was set to go viral before it even aired.
Was it dictated by the hype? Maybe. Is it genius? Definitely.
Trying to find the main takeaway of this campaign for the future use of advanced technology in marketing, it only raises questions: In an era where the need for inclusivity and holistic representation is more urgent than ever, could Balmain do better and hire an IRL diverse army? Of course, they could; which leaves me with the certainty of plain leverage. When a brand is only paying lip service to racial inclusivity (and beyond), consumers smell it from miles away.
On this front, this was a sample effort, and I have my eyes peeled for the pass of the baton: will others do better? Is it too early in the fight to replace people, models, professionals yearning to be seen and represented by their industry, with CGI and AI influencers?
We’ll just have to wait and see.