BLOG SERIES: AI in the Modeling World

By STEVE WHITTINGTON, CFA

Modeling agencies, historically, are some of the most tireless recruiters of talent in the world.  It’s an avant-garde industry that is always pushing the envelope in terms of vision and creativity.  Of course, once the talent is in fact discovered, the talent must get paid… until now.

When I came across THIS ARTICLE a few weeks ago, I found it interesting from a business model (no pun intended!) standpoint. This push into virtual models affects an agency’s cost structure quite a bit. Imagine, there is no real-live talent that needs to be paid.  Further, you own these virtual models into perpetuity. And there seems to be traction as brands, with real dollars behind them, are buying in (see HERE).

Also, the pool of available modeling talent suffers, with a lack of jobs. A lot has been made of our low unemployment rate over the last year. This industry could be a strange but viable leading indicator of how AI replaces people and what do those people do now?

AI is a disruptor from a trickle down sense, as well. Photographers don’t have people to shoot anymore. Most likely these people will have to transition into more of a graphic design skill set. And again, this provides, perhaps, an interesting proxy into how to cross-train a group of labor on the fly, similar to the discussion of training auto manufacturing workers, or farmers, with newer skills.

In any event, the world of high fashion has once again pushed a concept further than other industries can (or will).  Beyond the moral or image implications of what this implies, it will be interesting to see how the cost structure of this entire industry changes as a result of using “virtual” models!

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