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Shudu: Fashion’s First Avatar Supermodel?

Shudu is the world's first digital supermodel. She may not be able to talk or predict your favorite new product, but don't underestimate her power. Here, she poses for WWD in her debut fashion editorial.

Animation and photo by Cameron-James Wilson

In February, Fenty Beauty reposted an Instagram of a South African model named Shudu wearing one of its plush matte lipsticks. The image shows her posing in front of an orange backdrop with her hands touching her head, her manicured fingernails matching the “Saw-C” shade on her lips.

The picture is undeniably striking — no wonder it got a repost from Rihanna’s wildly successful makeup brand — and as it began to draw interest, a game-changing piece of news was unearthed: Shudu isn’t human.

The notion of an avatar is commonplace among gamers — think “Mario Kart,” which was released in 1992, or “Call of Duty,” which came out in 2003 — but it’s fairly new to fashion. Louis Vuitton cast a video game character for its spring 2016 campaign, and just last month, a figure named Lil Miquela made headlines in Highsnobiety, the Financial Times and New York Magazine following an Instagram “hack” by her frenemy, Bermuda.

Lil Miquela is rumored to be a computer-generated image — much like Shudu — though her representative declined to confirm this. Miquela, her friend Blawko, Bermuda and Sophia, an artificially intelligent robot who is also a Saudi Arabian citizen, are welcome in the sphere of Instagram influencers. But when it comes to high fashion, Shudu represents an entirely new reality.

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