What’s the Future of Modelling – Can Virtual Models Really Replace Real Faces?

  • Amy Bebbington

In the digital age that we live in, the virtual world is becoming a reality. The lines between real life models and computer-generated images are becoming very blurred. Top brands are targeting ‘fictional’ models to wear their designs and share to million of followers on Instagram. We’ve all witnessed how social media platforms are a very edited version of reality with influencers only posting the highlights of their life and the fashion industry Photoshopping physiques to unrealistic standards. But, is the rise of CGI taking this concept to the next level? Will models eventually be replaced? Let’s take a look…..


What is A Virtual Model?

To begin with lets establish what a CGI model is for those who have not tapped into imaginary virtual reality world yet. A virtual model is a digital image that is created by a team of people using a computer. He/she do not exist as real people just on the computer or phone screen. A lot of people buy into their presence on the Internet gaining such a huge following reaching into the thousands maybe even millions. With this amount of exposure, designers and fashion brands want in on the action hiring them to digitally wear their designs. They will simply contact their team of people behind the virtual celebrity and ask for a collaboration – at a fee of course.

Meet the Virtual Models

As with everything there are a few frontrunners that lead the virtual world with their celebrity status. A few have become very popular with an international audience adored for their cute personality, perfect hair, incredible dress sense and immaculate complexion. The perfect image that we all aspire to be. Their creators are looking to earn money by working with brands and successfully blurring the lines from reality to make believe.

Lil Miquela

Created in 2016, Miquela is obviously digitalised but her 1.1M followers do not care. Her single, Not Mine, went viral on Spotify and she is also a great supporter of social causes. She’s so popular that Prada collaborated with the brains behind Miquela to design a sticker pack of images and gifs to be used on Instagram stories. She is reportedly a 19 year old Los Angeles girl with her fresh faced, girl next door look.


Recognised as the first digital supermodel, Shudu has an impressive 105K followers on their Instagram account. Her striking, mesmerising beauty had people under a spell to begin with as no one realised she was an avatar. Her creator hopes to tackle diversity issues within the industry and to put a few of his favourite brands in the spotlight.


Her career began on the Japanese video game Final Fantasy. She joined the fashion world when Nicolas Ghesquiere, Louis Vuitton creative director took an interest in her bubblegum pink hair. She wore Louis Vuitton designs in three videos and his Spring/Summer 2016 collection was inspired by video games. He’s not the only designer creating for the virtual world with Marc Jacobs designing the stage outfits for Hatsune Miku who is a Japanese virtual singer.

Is Creating Perfection Damaging for Society?

It will become incredibly difficult to distinguish between the real world from the fake. When Fenty Beauty, the make-up brand owned by Rihanna posted an image on social media of a model wearing lipstick, no one suspected the beauty was in fact a digital model. The photo went viral and in two months Shudu (see above) had more than 90,000 Instagram followers. The social media mirage was adored with its creator, British photographer Cameron-James Wilson replying to messages from fans to create this false illusion.

He did admit that Shudu is an artistic creation due to his anxiety and he did not feel comfortable lying to fans. However, is this false illusion creating a strange world where individuals will compare themselves to the perfect model? We already have activists campaigning against a false representation of beauty standards in the fashion industry, isn’t this just adding to this? Humans are so beautifully flawed, which we should celebrate and showcase rather than remove with a touch of a button. There is already a place for illustrations and graphics that are wonderfully creative therefore, we do we need to replace real models? Will it create a negative impact of how the younger generation feel about their looks and body?


The Future of Modelling

Will a degree in computer science or animation be more relevant than the perfect bone structure, slim physique and towering height? Living in this incredibly digital age where most are transfixed to their phones or laptop reality is taking second place. It is as though the fashion industry has to react to the current trend to avoid getting left behind.

However, it could be a fad, an extension of the gaming world. It’s fun and playful yet don’t we need models that we can relate to. Have conversations with, an image that we aspire to be. I can’t see the virtual images replacing our supermodels at New York, Paris and Milan Fashion Week. The excitement, thrill and electric atmosphere can’t be recreated online by an animation team. Fashion lovers want to see the texture, movement and shape on a fabric in real life not on a computer screen.

The same goes for photoshoots and magazines. Wouldn’t the publication be more like a comic if each image were digitalised. Yes, as a species we crave fantasy and illusion but only to a certain degree. It’s the same within music and photography. Everyone is excited for the new thing that has just been released. The tape replaced the record and the digital camera made analog redundant. However, overtime the new generation gets nostalgic for the past. The young generation crave the sound of the old records and the process of developing a film. The digital age is great but we need people too.

What do you think about virtual modelling? Do you think it will replace real life models?

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Posted by Amy Bebbington

I express my love of fashion through writing, blogging and styling. My creative personality ensures that I produce unique and original work. I am a keen knitter and enthusiatic dancer.