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From Catwalk to Cyberspace

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From Catwalk to Cyberspace: A contemporary view on how Gen Z will pixelate the fashion industry.

Volunteer Label writer, Tom Rowland, shares an interesting piece on how technological advances are changing the face and nature of the fashion industry.

Introducing Shudu, one of the emerging supermodels of the 21st Century. Shudu first gained public exposure after Fenty reposted a picture of her donning Rihanna’s bright orange lipstick [See above]. Since then, she has amassed nearly 200k followers on Instagram; securing paid partnership deals with EE, Ellesse and Balmain, and appearances in British and Australian Vogue. However, not all is what it seems…. Shudu is not real. Shudu is a CGI rendering – “The World’s First Digital Supermodel”.

Should the fashion industry be concerned by Shudu, the “black Digi-supermodel”, and does this spark a wider debate into a lack of diversity within the fashion industry? Is Shudu evidence that society is gravitating towards losing authentic interactions?

Arguably, the users interacting with these CGI models/influencers are being deceived, as they are programmed and manufactured to grasp our attention. They do not have emotions or feelings, yet they create a convincing simulation provoking levels of engagement and interaction –  as evidenced by their fandom leaving thought provoking comments such as “You inspire me 😁”. Have Gen Z become the first to accept that relationships with AI are plausible?

Yet, how do these pixelated ‘It’ girls define a new era for fashion and advertising? Perhaps this creates a wider issue related to both industries: diversity. Shudu is a digital creation produced by photographer, Cameron James-Wilson – a white privileged man. Arguably, this reduces Shudu as a whitewash of ethnic identity and authenticity. Wilson defends her creation in an article by Refinery29:

“She represents a lot of the real models of today. There’s a big kind of movement with dark skin models, so she represents them and is inspired by them.” Obviously, some models like Duckie [Thot] were definitely big inspirations for her as well,” 

However,disputing Wilson, Shudu is a mere one-dimensional version of what he believes to be a black woman; overall, a homogenization of both race and gender. While this confronts and addresses that there is a lack of diverse women within modelling, why would the fashion houses not just seek to improve diversity when recruiting models, rather than hiring a man to digitise a black supermodel?

Contrastingly, to not appear completely techno-sceptic, the pixilation of the fashion industry may not be as bleak as it appears… Dutch fashion house The Fabricant recently designed a piece called ‘Iridescence’, which, unlike the usual fabric garments to hit the runway, was a design entirely computer generated and imposed onto the model. The founders of this movement have gone on to work with brands such as Tommy Hilfiger. So, what are the obvious benefits of this pixelated movement?

The slow extinction of archaic practises amongst fashion houses, along with the digitalisation of fashion design, could see huge cost savings when it comes to the sampling process, as there will no longer be the production of physical prototypes which are merely discarded once finished (severely impacting pollution). In our not so distant futures, could the fashion industry be finally taking the right steps towards climate action, or is it a case of too little too late? 70 million trees are culled each year to produce the clothes we all wear.

To sum up, there should be a wider discussion on the ethics surrounding digital creations like Shudu and their implications on diversity and inclusion. While technological advancements may reduce costs and waste, there needs to be immediate action from fashion industry leaders to address climate change – or  is it time we cancel the fashion industry once and for all?

 

Article written by Tom Rowland.

Header designed by Christos Alamaniotis.

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Label Culture Editor 19-20

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