Image Credit: Gen V Agency
With the modeling industry on hold, virtual models are stepping up to fill the runways.
Shavonne Wong is an award-winning fashion photographer with 10 years of experience. She’s a returning guest photographer on Asia’s Next Top Model, has photographed actor/singer Billy Porter for Vogue, is an ambassador for (X-Photographer) for Fujifilm, and was recently included in Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list for 2020.
The moment COVID began making its way across the globe, Wong knew the fashion modeling industry would be hit hard by the shelter-in-place orders. With many of her jobs cancelled and shoots put on hold, Wong found herself with a lot more free time on her hands. So, rather than wait for the world to return to normal, she instead decided to create a roster of virtual models which could fill the void left by human talent. And thus Gen V Agency was born.
There are currently three virtual models on the Gen V Agency roster. Kade, Lilium, and Lunah. Designed by Wong herself, each feature their own unique style and personality. Much like conventional models, all three models can be hired by editorial magazines and fashion brands for commercial shoots.
During an interview with VRScout, Wong talked about the process of creating the look of each virtual model, saying, “I first decide on the sort of features I would like for my models. Hair color, face shape, lip thickness etc,” Wong continues, “Then I find images of real people with the features I am looking for. This is where references become useful so as to ensure they are accurate representations of actual human features.”
Once she decides on how her model will look, Wong uses a range of software to flesh out each digital talent. Her main tool is Blender, an open source 3D modeling software.
“Once the sculpting process is complete, the next step is to texture her. Skin texture can be tricky so it takes a lot of trial and error to get it right. After that, I get her rigged so that she can be moved and posed,” said Wong.
Hiring a Gen V Agency model is a lot like hiring a real-life model. The clientele takes a look at the roster of models and decides on a specific talent based on their look and style. Once selected, the client works with Wong on every detail of the “shoot,” including outfits, accessories, shoes, even lighting and set design. From there, Wong takes the information and puts it all together in 3D.
Using this process, Wong is able to modify, tweak, adjust, and reposition models on-the-fly, saving a lot of time for both Wong and the client.
Of course, Gen V Agency isn’t the first virtual modeling agency. Other agencies such as The Digitals and Aww have been around for a couple of years now. However, this does show that there is a demand for virtual beings within the fashion industry.
As for the future of Gen V Agency’s talent, Wong said, “As of right now, I have created beautiful shells with so much potential. I look forward to being able to work with more exciting technology like VR and AI to see where this can go!”
Over the last couple of years we’ve seen the rise of virtual beings being used in everything from gaming and music to social media and other forms of entertainment. One virtual character even won an Emmy!
Fable Studio out of San Francisco has helped pushed this idea into new territories with its Wolves in the Walls series as well as the Virtual Beings Summit, which explores the growing impact of VR and AI and how they’re coming together to change social media, commerce, and the arts.