In 2018, fashion brand LOTA, gave India its first digital influencer, Rajiv. Now, the same brand has launched Indian Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) models for the first time ever on an international runway.
It all started when Co-founder Adhiraj Singh started looking for an alternative way to visualise the campaigns he wanted to work on, but couldn’t possibly produce due to limited budget, teams and physical constraints.
“Digital models and sets were the ideal solutions to this problem and a gift that keeps on giving. Since then, I have been fascinated by digital forms, be it 3D, AR or VR in creating new forms of communication. Rajiv, our first digital avatar, came about when we made our first shirt. Instead of just photographing it, I had created this 3D process of putting the shirt onto a 3D form and shot him in a virtual 3D studio. That was the first visual we put out and got a great response,” reminisces Singh, who has been adding more models since then.
These digital models, says Singh, hold a tremendous value in digital workflow to help designers iterate and communicate their designs without using any material or carbon intensive resources like travelling and sourcing to shoot their clothes. One person operating a computer can make this entire shoot possible.
Recently, Singh collaborated with designer Roma Narsinghani to create the digital jewellery pieces at the Helsinki Fashion Week 2020. Talking about his collaboration, he says, “We were on the same page from the first go and realised we could learn a lot from each other. It’s such an emerging field that you have to just figure out solutions to innumerable problems and I think we came out of it stronger. We were so fortunate to have the ability to add more representation and are super excited to see three models walk to ramp.”
Out of the three, Rajiv and Priya, were built using libraries and on separate software, whereas Shyamli, built from scratch, is based on a real person that Singh and his collaborator, Harsh Nambiar, are currently working on. So, what is the process of creating digital models? For Singh, it’s important to ‘art direct’ the intention behind the character before even creating it. “Digital variables like skin tone, body and face shape, ethnicity, imperfections are highly symbolic today, and can be controlled by the 3D designer.
You can really tell the intention of a brand by looking at the variables they promote on their models. After defining the backstory, context and intention for our character, I have access to a wide variety of libraries and techniques to create or model them from scratch.” However, the process is very labour intensive.
“Also, getting animation and natural expressions can be tricky. It’s a dance for designers to not stray too much into the uncanny valley,” concludes Singh.