Could Ava Be Singapore’s Next Top Fashion Influencer?
Virtual models and influencers – 3-D creations that exist only in images and software – have begun to obscure the lines of fiction and reality.
by Gordon Ng /
October 13, 2020
Ava, the virtual model makes her fashion magazine debut for FEMALE's Oct 2020 edition. Credit: Courtesy
Whether you’re an industry insider or not, when one looks at a fashion image, questions about its reality tend to arise quite simply because fashion is built so much on a hyper-extended version of the world.
Runway outfits are styled not for real life, but a form of artistic messaging, for example. When hair and makeup are referred to as “editorial”, it insinuates that they’ve been created for the pages of a magazine and not for, say, wearing to an office. And when photos are heavily retouched to perfection, it’s often perceived as fashion’s attempt to elevate the mundane and realise an ideal.
These days, however, one could well be looking at an image of a model and realise that its layers of simulation and reality (not to get into a Baudrillard spin here) have been completely flattened: Enter the world of virtual models.
Here’s a case to be made though that, while virtual, these avatars are very real.
The biggest names so far are perhaps Lil Miquela and Shudu; the former a virtual avatar styled after modern day social media influencers, and the latter a high fashion model working in the style of Ajak Deng. What they have in common: Neither of them actually exist – they’re both works of fiction that exist only in a digital space, thanks to the hand of their makers.
Here’s a case to be made though that, while virtual, these avatars are very real. Lil Miquela is wildly popular, and fashion brands have caught on to that – she participates in magazine shoots and gets invited to Prada shows. Shudu, meanwhile, has a Balmain campaign under her belt. Not bad for two girls with no corporeal bodies.
In Singapore, more seem to be getting in on the action. Among them: the content creator Nicole Wong, photographer Shavonne Wong and recent Lasalle College of the Arts graduate Reyme Husaini.
Each creating imagery featuring their virtual models (complete with their stats) in runway pieces from the new season for Female – the avatars’ Fall/Winter 2020 magazine debut, so to speak – they shed light on how their make-belief digital characters can be an empowering thing.
Ava by Reyme Husaini
Ava was created by Reyme Husaini for his final year project at Lasalle College of the Arts in the Fashion Media and Industries program.
Reyme Husaini created the virtual influencer Ava while working on his final year project at Lasalle College of the Arts in the Fashion Media and Industries program. Completely self-taught, he’s only had a year of experience working with 3-D design and describes the uphill process of learning three different software as “blood, sweat and tears”. “I felt like I was out of my league,” he tells us.
Ava with her creator Reyme.
His idea to create Ava was born from a fascination with the idea of online influence. “Millennials and Gen Z are so digitally savvy, and they consume information every day, so it was like, what’s next?” he explains.
Wool coat and leather belt, Miu Miu. All other accessories, artist’s own creations
That led to research into existing virtual influencers, and a look at celebrities on social media. The difference with Ava, however, is that Husaini intends to use her platform and voice – however, crafted – for good.
Ava is also a champion/supporter of civil rights.
Ava’s personality was created after conducting a survey of what his peers expect from a virtual influencer. The results: She/he ought to be stylish, up-to-date with trends, relatable and – crucially – one who’s socially and politically inclined to use his/her voice. The idea of a crowdsourced personality might sound insidious, but who among us can claim to not be influenced by the company we keep anyway?
“Millennials and Gen Z are so digitally savvy, and they consume information every day, so it was like, what’s next?”
Her modelling gig as part of her collaboration with BHG.
When asked about the thin line between what’s real and not, Husaini says Ava is “not exactly fooling anyone. The idea is about mocking what social media has become and the idea of a simulation, like Black Mirror, and about the advancement of tech.”