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#Culture: After Digital Runways, Virtual Models Are The Next Big Fashion Innovation On The Block. Will They Replace Real Models?

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Welcome to the future of fashion aka…today. The global pandemic has already changed so much in the fashion industry in last few months innovations don’t surprise me anymore. Debut of virtual runways instead of physical runways? Sure! High time that happened. Shop-on-wheels picking up in fashion retail industry? Um, not new and definitely the need of the hour. I can say that it has prepared me for almost every fashion innovation there could be. Almost!

Now I have stumbled upon yet another breakthrough invention in the fashion space. I am talking about the virtual models or CGI models. They will be featured in shoot campaigns, walk the (virtual) ramps showcasing the newest collection in fashion and appear on the cover biggest fashion magazines. You know, just like the real models, except they will be digital. Take your time to wrap your head around it.

This might be a new concept for India but virtual fashion models and influencers are already having a moment in the global industry. The world’s first digital supermodel, Shudu was launched in the year 2018 and has already featured in biggest fashion publications like Vogue and WWD. Those attuned to the fashion media would know digital influencers Lil Miquela and Noonoouri who have millions of followers on their Instagram, something that real influencers don’t achieve in a lifetime.

Also Read: Thanks To The Pandemic, Indian Fashion Shows Are Going Digital Soon. This Is So Cool

Although bringing in digital models in the fashion scene has long been in the talks in India, the idea only came into being in the wake of the current global crisis. Inega, a talent management agency launched India’s first digital model, Nila, last month after working on it since the beginning of 2020. Nila is (perpetually) 20 years old and her name means “moon” in Tamil.

Although she hasn’t been disclosed completely (you can check out her Instagram account), many Indian fashion brands are already looking at working with her. Inega’s CEO, Ankit Mehta said about her in an interview, “We’ve been exposed to the idea and our teams are following virtual models around the world. India is tricky as a market, and unlike the Japanese market we don’t take to virtual content very easily. When I heard the idea of representing a virtual model, it triggered the fact that we could because we have the expertise to create something and give it the longevity that it requires.”

Talking about the ideation of Nila, he said, “We first wrote the character when the idea was conceptualised. Once we did that, we sketched her. After she was sketched, she was sculpted. That’s how we approached it. Tomorrow, there may be an instance where she represents India internationally or otherwise, and so, having these denominators set out well in the beginning was very important.”

At her launch, Nila expressed through her spokesperson, “I am extremely grateful to the whole Inega team for welcoming me with open arms. More importantly, to ‘Team Nila’, my champions within Inega & Inega Prograde who nourish my personality. Together, they’ve conceptualised and launched me, a digital character, imbued with all the excitement and wonder of a child. I can’t wait to begin my interactions with the vast and multi-faceted world of brands, fashion, art, music, you name it!”

So, call it the global pandemic or tide of the time, we are already in a world where the virtual reality has collided with the physical one. With digital models like Nila shaking up the norms of the fashion industry, where does it leave the real, human models? Is the concept of virtual modelling only prevalent till the pandemic ends? Or is it really the future of fashion? Will the virtual models replace the real models entirely or will they coexist?

Although it’s revolutionary step in the Indian fashion industry, designers like Urvashi Kaur and Rina Dhaka think that it’s highly unlikely that virtual models will replace the real models. Urvashi Kaur told India Today, “In a deeper sense, I feel that the human aspect is something that resonates with me much more. I do feel that while digital versions are great alternatives, there is nothing that compares to the thrill of seeing a real-life supermodel take to the ramp, breathing life into the designers vision.” And, I agree.

Rina Dhaka also think on the same lines. She said, “I think the modelling industry won’t die right now because of the cataloguing industry and the reason that fashion is also being sold online right now. Also, creating virtual models will have to be a much cheaper process. Will it be? I don’t think so. Technology is very expensive, so what is the point… you might as well take a real model [for campaigns and shoots].”

We sincerely hope that virtual models don’t eat up the jobs of real ones, because honestly, fashion is more than just clothes. It’s an idea, an emotion and feeling all weaved into the fabric that can only be conveyed through real models. Having said that, kudos to the revolutionising technology that has taken the fashion industry to new heights.

Also Read: After Virtual Weddings, Virtual Divorce Is Now A Thing. This Delhi Couple Is The First To Get One

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