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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

A closer look at the business of being a fashion model 

As digital models join their human counterparts on fashion runways, we look at the profession and its peculiarities

While Shudu is the world’s first virtual model, she isn’t the only computer-generated influencer on Instagram. Courtesy @shudu.gram instagram page
While Shudu is the world’s first virtual model, she isn’t the only computer-generated influencer on Instagram. Courtesy @shudu.gram instagram page

Marie Augustine Vernet is considered the world’s first “live” model. Before she showcased husband French couturier Charles Frederick Worth’s designs in the 1850s, clothes were displayed on mannequins.

The modelling profession boomed alongside the popularity of 35mm film in the early 1900s, when women and men were enlisted to pose in advertisements, and the rise of fashion photography of the 1940s.

Ford Models, established in New York City in 1946, is regarded as the first modelling agency. Names such as Jinx Falkenburg, Lisa Fonssagrives, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Wilhelmina Cooper and Dorian Leigh became well known in the industry, with the most successful earning US$25 an hour in the 1950s. Cut to the 1990s, and Linda Evangelista’s “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day” quip demonstrates how far the industry had come. The five original supermodels – Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and Tatjana Patitz – made modelling mainstream and a part of pop culture.

Social media now helps models to further their careers and earn global recognition, with names such as Cara Delevingne, Kendall Jenner and the Hadid sisters ruling the roost.

The oft-controversial industry has come under fire for myriad reasons, with issues ranging from underage and anorexic models to a lack of diversity. The latter at least has been addressed in the 21st century, with models of all sizes, shapes, genders and colour now walking the runways. This year, the world’s first digital model – Shudu Gram (pictured) – was born. Virtual models Margot and Zhi joined Shudu for a Balmain advertisement campaign, indicative of a CGI trend that looks set to divide the industry once again.

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