The fashion industry is one of the world’s most creative, innovative, ever-evolving industries. Not only are the styles, trends, advice, and interpretations constantly changing, but so are the people influencing brands, designers, and the industry as a whole.
Insert virtual influencers here. Virtual influencers will absolutely change the future of fashion. But before we dive into how, let’s first discuss what a virtual influencer is, what they do, and how they came about.
A virtual influencer is a fictional, computer-generated person. A real person is behind a virtual influencer, controlling how they look and act at every turn. Their features, personalities, and characteristics mimic humans. But as human-like, as they may seem, they aren’t real.
Even still, virtual influencers do much of what human influencers in real life do.
A virtual influencer builds a reputation for one reason or another and develops a loyal following because of it. They use their influence to persuade their followers to buy certain things and take specific actions. In addition, they create videos, images, and other content to promote different brands, products, and points of view.
You may not be able to touch a virtual influencer. However, the way they communicate and express who they are with their followers creates a real connection that can be felt by individuals worldwide.
Virtual influencers emerged earlier than you might think.
“Cynthia,” the plaster mannequin created by Lester Gaba for Saks Fifth Ave in the 1930s, is noted as the first virtual influencer. Obviously, this was well before the internet. But this fictional character was the first “influencer” to rise to stardom in the media and fashion industry.
Fast-forward to now, and we’ve got a litter of notable virtual influencers to pick through. For example, Noonoouri is one of the most popular virtual influencers today. She has over 400,000 followers and is signed to IMG models. The fashion industry loves her, as she’s been a part of major fashion campaigns with brands like Versace, Vogue, and Lacoste.
Virtual influencers claimed their stake in our world even more recently when many people often retreated to the digital landscape to cope with working from home. Scrolling through Instagram, Tik Tok, and other social media platforms as a replacement for social interaction led us to engage more with not just real influencers but virtual ones too.
As virtual influencers become more prominent in our real and digital worlds, they’ll continue to change the fashion industry. Here’s how.
This one might seem obvious, but virtual influencers will make technology a more substantial part of fashion experiences. Human influencers have already made social media an integral part of the fashion industry.
But virtual influencers will evolve how we directly engage with influencers and experience the fashion industry.
For example, the Metaverse, a network of 3D virtual worlds rooted in social connection, is growing in popularity. More and more people engage in this alternate reality, soaking up fashion trends, advice, and inspiration along the way.
Because of this, virtual influencers and fashion brands are finding a way to establish their presence too. From promoting unique digital wearables to hosting fashion events, you can experience the future of fashion in one of the most immersive ways.
In addition, operating or engaging with an influencer account, especially one that includes things like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and digital wearables, requires high-quality, speedy internet service.
So, suppose someone really wants to get the full experience in the Metaverse or on another sophisticated digital platform. In that case, they’ll have to prioritize quality internet and accompanying tech tools, making technology that much more critical to future fashion experiences and engagements with virtual influencers.
As mentioned above, virtual influencers are computer-generated. The tools used to create such a human-like character are above many people’s level of understanding. In addition, the technology we use to engage with these virtual beings requires some work to understand and use properly.
That’s why digital natives are the most likely to take to virtual influencers. Digital natives are predominantly younger consumers from the millennial and Generation Z groups. They either grew up with technology, or it was a large part of their life.
So, fashion brands that partner with or create virtual influencers have a tremendous opportunity to gain the attention of younger consumers and stimulate digital interaction with them.
The digital fashion community is growing, but it can use more support to establish itself further. Virtual influencers can be influential in this regard. They can create a bridge for fashion brands to transition from the real world into the digital community.
Many virtual influencers have a higher engagement rate than human influencers, whether in 2D or 3D worlds. So, fashion brands that partner with popular virtual influencers can grow their presence in the digital community by showcasing previous and current fashion collections and accessories in an exciting new way, draping them over virtual bodies.
Virtual influencers aren’t new but have exploded in popularity in recent years. They’re making their way into various industries, but fashion is top of the list. Virtual influencers have helped the fashion industry evolve and will continue to do so in the future.
* Written by Miles Oliver
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Fashinnovation’s columnists are their own, not those of Fashinnovation.