High tech meets high fashion| Will robots take over the runway?

It’s a prevalent conversation in the Digital Age. Technological automation is phasing out a lot of traditional jobs. Robots are automating everything from basic to skilled labor. Computers are taking over tasks and performing them with more efficiency at a lesser cost. Workers are panicking that they are becoming obsolete. 

But the rise of the robot is challenging an unexpected domain. One of the more unique intros to the automation narrative is the supermodel. Flawless has a new face. Who needs Photoshop when you can literally build perfect pores and sculpt ideal bodies?

Modeling, an inherently human job it seemed, saw a couple of technological introductions this year. Drones and digital models today. Robots running the runways tomorrow? Can robots really automate modeling?

Drones opened for Dolce and Gabbana, leading accessories down the catwalk. People were outraged at this Instagram account for revealing that the gorgeous model behind the page is actually nothing more than a pixel-perfect masterpiece. A similar digital Instagram “model” announced Prada’s line to its millions of followers. 

Perhaps these examples were no more than participation in a larger trend. Fashion simply making a statement on a periphery fad with no intentions of actually outsourcing their model casts. But even the inclusion of this kind of tech leads to a mountain of questions. 

What would happen to beauty standards? Would this promote healthier body aspirations or worse ones? Women often feel pressured to look like models, but would we really aspire to look like robots?

Or would we now have a new ideal to strive to, aiming for manufactured perfection?

What are the implications behind literally unreal women in the midst of the “real woman” movement? This has been a common source of contention in fashion. Women want more average and plus sized women represented so that they can relate to the brand. Personally, I’ve always hated the message of “real women” because in empowering one woman, you tell another she’s not enough. But a robot may carry an undertone that no woman is enough.

So where do real women fit in when someone can simply extricate the inevitability of flaws by literally creating a figment of perfection. When women demand women they can relate to, where does a digital model fit?

Or perhaps it’s just art

Can we look at these digital and technological manifestations as art for art’s sake? Perhaps it’s not sinister at all. Perhaps it is one artist collaborating with another. I’m always all for art and all of its various forms.

Despite the outrage launched at the undeniably gorgeous digital model, this fear of model’s being replaced, of course, is over speculation. We are, after all, in the age of the digital influencer (insert digital influencer link,) the evolution of the people’s insider.

Consumers hate what they cannot relate to, and lack of life leaves a huge chasm between product and the new consumer. Supermodels today are no longer measured by the number of Vogue covers in her arsenal, but rather the number of followers she has.

A digital model is fun for the novelty of it, but its appeal lies more so in the art of its creation and the awe of technology’s capability. The personalization, human to human, can never be automated, despite the rise of the Siri’s and the AI’s and the movies that propagate this new frontier.

Our digital prowess is both a gift and a curse

Consumers love authenticity

The new consumer is averse to anything seemingly fabricated. This is where the aforementioned “real woman” movement was born out of. People don’t want to feel like they’re looking at some altered iteration of a human being. They want to be communicated with person to person. And this personification needs, well, a person, doesn’t it? What comes across when you find out that the woman you admire is actually a composition of inanimate synapses. A lifeless shell of an artist’s idea of beauty?

Fashion’s new obsession with influencers (insert link I post it) literally arose from the consumer demand for relatability. The airbrushed models of days past would be better poised to deliver on this demand than a technological puppet. But even the over-processed editorials and covers are stringently prosecuted by consumers now. Consumers hate feeling tricked or lied to. But even in the case of photoshopped models, at least we both have flesh, even if your pores are microscopic. 

Imperfections are the newest fad. I suppose the potential of technology could certainly accommodate imperfections as much as it could the opposite. But how contrived is it to actually build a prototype with love handles or zits. We enjoy discovering our favorite models and influencers need anti-aging serums just like the rest of us. 

Digital models and robots may especially be problematic when we are only just on the brink of addressing and solving fashion’s diversity problem. Robots joining the workforce raise concern that they are potentially taking places that could have belonged to a minority.

But consumers also love novelty

As a creator and appreciator of art, I can completely marvel at the breathtaking masterpiece that is Shudu. It is art and it is beautiful art. With disclosure, I don’t mind brands using this art to promote their products. And I think it can certainly exist alongside our traditional ideas of advertorials, as long as brands use it as a diversification strategy and not a replacement one. I like the idea of museum quality editorials, of artists being able to collaborate with designers in the same way that entire teams made up of creative directors, stylists and models have in the past.

I think fashion acknowledging the rise of technology and finding their place in its world is noble and inevitable. They may not have found their sea legs yet, but these things take time. And luckily, for the consumer, we have never been more a part of the conversation. 

Can we appreciate the potential art and advancement that technology can add to fashion without feeling betrayed or edged out?


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