Balmain's New Fashion Campaign Is Being Fronted By Three Digital Models, And People Have Some Thoughts

    Margot, Shudu, and Zhi form the "virtual army" for the fashion house's pre-fall 2018 collection

    Meet Margot, Shudu, and Zhi. They are the stars of French fashion house Balmain's latest campaign and are causing quite a debate online due to the fact that they are not human. They are computer-generated designs and, to some people, they are a threat to working models.

    In the past, Balmain's usual star-studded campaigns have featured the likes of Rihanna, Jourdan Dunn, Gigi Hadid, and Kendall Jenner at the forefront.

    But the brand announced it was going a different direction when it unveiled that this season's campaign would be led by its own virtual army.

    The campaign is the product of a collaboration between Balmain, photographer Cameron-James Wilson, who created the models, and CLO Virtual Fashion, which digitally remastered the original clothing.

    Wilson is popularly known as the British photographer behind Shudu, a project you may already be familiar with. The CGI model stormed Instagram to rack up over 140,000 followers when she was introduced as "the world’s first digital supermodel".

    But when it was revealed that the figure behind the account was a white British man, there was considerable backlash.

    "The new virtual troops reflect the same beautiful diverse mix, strong confidence and eagerness to explore new worlds. Anyone and everyone is always welcome to join the #BALMAINARMY," reads one caption on Balmain's official Instagram account.

    The brand, led by famed creative director Olivier Rousteing, is a favourite among celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Known for heavily beaded, detailed, and decadent pieces, the brand dominated the high street for a brief moment with a 2015 H&M collaboration that sold out in minutes.

    The campaign has sparked debate. Some people have defended it as a creative moment in the fashion industry.

    Others are concerned about what message it sends out to working models, particularly models of colour who struggle to secure regular, well-paying opportunities in a competitive industry.

    @Balmain hire real models! There are enough real models in this world for you to even think about this! 😠

    @Balmain basically said “i don’t need to hire a real melanin filled model when i can use a digital one created by a white man “ JUST HIRE BLACK MODELS https://t.co/AnPpO8f2pq

    There's also the argument about who could be profiting from the appearance of a diverse campaign that features no real people.

    And what the introduction of CGI models means for body image.

    BuzzFeed News has contacted Balmain and representatives for Olivier Rousteing and Cameron-James Wilson for comment.