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Virtual Runways Lead to Creation of Virtual Models


Finding the perfect models to carry their collections down the runways of New York Fashion Week is a challenge every designer faces. But what if you could create the ideal model for each look and simultaneously cut down on your carbon footprint? The AI model is the goal of the latest fashion technology breakthrough.

Richard Thornn is the Creative Director of NAMESldn, the company behind HUM.AI.N, an agency with an endless supply of models where designers can do more than choose their idea of perfection” They create them from scratch. “AI models can be anything you want them to be,” Thornn said, “beyond defined jawlines, sharp cheekbones, and unattainably slender figures.”

“HUM.AI.N will be breaking barriers and disrupting stubborn boundaries of physical beauty and gender,” he says. “It represents everything the original cover girl did not: diversity, individuality, and inclusivity.” In other words, as our ideas of beauty shift, HUM.AI.N creates models that change with them.

NAMESldn is a “tech innovation company” that has worked with Lady Gaga and MOMA to develop digital extravaganzas. Then came the pandemic and the lockdown. Thornn thought, if runways were going digital, why not models? “During the lockdown, it sped up our appetite to transform fashion,” Thornn said. “We felt that now was the time to create immersive digital showrooms.”


HUM.AI.N operates in the same way as a traditional modeling agency but without actual human beings. “You come in and hire your models,” he said. “We sit down and work out the poses, set design, lighting, makeup,p.” They also create digital versions of the designers’ looks.

Each avatar takes about three months to create. But there are other advantages:  lower cost and far less environmental impact than a live runway show, which may involve flying personnel and garments worldwide and trucking pieces from factories and showrooms to the shows. “We use nominal resources compared to the carbon footprints of actual shoots and shows,” Thornn says.

But what about the human models who stand to lose their livelihoods if AI models catch on? “AI models are not replacing human models,” he says. “They are a gateway for digital fashion that enables us to create ethical, epic shoots, campaigns, and imagery.” But he does see the potential for live shows using AI models wearing digital looks, a series of hologram-like figures walking an actual runway.

The company currently has three basic models of models, but they are creating more and planning a big runway rollout just in time for the February shows, which will most likely, again, go virtual. In the meantime, Thornn says the company is growing “exponentially.” “There is a huge demand for change in fashion, to be sustainable, low impact, and to limit waste,” he says. “Fashion experiences will become digital alchemy. They won’t always be the cut-and-sewn experiences we’ve always known.”


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