These three CGI (Computer Generated Image) models are the faces of Balmain’s new campaign. They have the perfect angular cheekbones and ooze glamour most could never manage. But Shudu, Margot and Zhi don’t exist. They’re the latest in a line of computer-generated models being used in advertising. Balmain worked with British photographer Cameron James-Wilson, who created digital supermodel Shudu last year.
Shudu has now gone from having her Instagram featured by Rihanna’s make-up brand Fenty Beauty to being at the centre of a major fashion campaign – all without existing in real life.
But what does this mean for real models?
‘Competing with literally unreal girls is really scary’
Louise Stone is a model from London who’s worked on campaigns with L’Oreal and Adidas.
The 24-year-old is worried this new wave of CGI models could make an already competitive industry more difficult to navigate.
“It’s just so easy to be replaceable,” she told Radio 1 Newsbeat in the UK.
“To have to compete with literally unreal girls is just really scary – you can shape anything you want and have the exact perfect look without the casting process.”
Dominique Robinson landed a campaign with Tyra Banks after the supermodel commented on one of her Instagram photos.
She said she was “in shock” when she first saw the Balmain campaign. She thinks models need to talk about what it could mean for their careers.
“Girls work their entire career hoping to book a Balmain campaign, or any campaign really,” she said.
“If it’s just that easy to hand a campaign to CGI models… what does the future of e-commerce look like for us?
“And it’s not only cutting models out, it’s cutting out production too.”
It’s not just models who are concerned.
Photographer Manny Roman was among those posting criticism on Balmain’s Instagram.
He’s concerned about the impact seeing the models could have on self-esteem.
“While I do admire the campaign’s digital art, I don’t like the non-realistic message that Balmain is sending out to society,” he said.
“Many of us are consumed with our social media accounts and some have a hard time living up to the physical standards of models and celebrities they follow.
“I fear the CGI models image will escalate the body and image dysmorphic epidemic.”