If you think that the future of fashion is digital, you might just be right, at least if the past few months have been any indication. In the face of lockdown measures, brands and designers have dug deep into their reserves of creativity and adapted their strategies to the current climate. And the result has been a marked shift towards the virtual direction.
For instance, presentations slated for the coming months have gone fully digital, including a newly gender-neutral London Fashion Week in July, the Paris Haute Couture shows, and Milan Fashion Week in the same month. Congolese designer and founder of Hanifa, Anifa Mvuemba, chose to debut her latest collection via 3D renderings on Instagram Live in a groundbreaking display of the possibilities that technology offers for fashion. Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, meanwhile, has become an unexpected hit with fashion lovers under lockdown, with Marc Jacobs, Valentino, and Sandy Liang among the labels who have collaborated on outfits for the simulation game. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
It’s in such a context that the rise of virtual influencers seems ever more imminent. Of course, avatars are nothing new in fashion – just take CGI influencer (and L’Officiel Singapore cover girl!) Lil Miquela as proof. But with real influencers still limited by social distancing mandates and travel restrictions, AI avatars are looking increasingly like viable options for creating editorial imagery that’s not confined to four walls or a nation’s borders. They don’t get sick, for one, nor do they age. Plus they always look their best, they’re reputed to be very hardworking, and in line with the importance of sustainability, they also have a far smaller carbon footprint.
Here are the names you’ll want to know and add to your list of Instagram accounts to follow.
Followers: 2.3 million
With her heart-shaped face, smattering of freckles, signature space buns, and a résumé that includes brands like Prada and Calvin Klein, Miquela Sousa, aka Lil Miquela, seems like the ultimate LA cool girl.
Except she’s made of pixels. A CGI avatar who is widely considered to be the first of her kind, Miquela boasts over two million followers on Instagram, a platform she uses to advocate for causes such as the Black Lives Matter movement, feminism, and transgender rights. She’s also a singer whose songs are streamed by tens of thousands of people every month, and can often be spotted in the company of celebrities like Teyana Taylor, Rosalía, and Tracee Ellis Ross at fashion shows and music festivals like Coachella.
This trailblazing influencer is the work of California-based startup Brud, and definitely the one to watch.
Often described as the world’s first digital supermodel, the breathtakingly beautiful Shudu is the creation of fashion photographer Cameron-James Wilson, who has worked with Gigi Hadid and Pia Mia. Wilson was reportedly inspired to create her because of the lack of diversity he observed in the modelling industry. She has posed for the likes of Balmain and Rihanna’s beauty empire, and starred in several editorial spreads. The face of fashion’s future? Only time will tell.
Noonoouri looks like she stepped straight out of the pages of manga with her luxurious dark locks, porcelain skin, and soulful eyes. Created by German graphic designer Joerg Zuber, this activist and vegan lives in Paris, and has a wardrobe most (real) people can only dream of owning — Gucci, Fendi, Versace, and Jacquemus are but a few of the brands she favours. Oh, and she’s also filmed makeup tutorials for Kim Kardashian West, and taken over Dior’s Instagram for one of the Maison’s Cruise shows. Talk about “living” the dream!
She may be new to the scene, but don’t underestimate Ava Lee-Graham. The first-ever virtual influencer to hail from Singapore, Ava (an acronym for “artificial virtual android”) is the brainchild of Reyme Husaini, a senior at Lasalle College of the Arts. Forever 22 and a Virgo with a gender-fluid style, Ava is intended by Husaini to be “an outspoken platform for the minorities to raise awareness and spark conversations about a social and sometimes political issue, no matter how controversial”.