Wednesday, December 7, 2011

H&M and the curious case of the cyborg models

Look at these two models, from the H&M online catalogue:

Here are three more:

Notice anything... odd?

According to Jezebel, "The bodies of most of the models H&M features on its website are computer-generated and 'completely virtual,' the company has admitted. H&M designs a body that can better display clothes made for humans than humans can, then 'dresses' it by drawing on its clothes, and digitally pastes on the heads of real women in post-production."

In other words, they're just digital paper dolls. Pick a skin tone, add an outfit and photoshop in a real head. Why a real head? Well, humans have pretty fine-tuned facial recognition software in their heads. We tend to be freaked out by fake faces that are too close for comfort, pushing us into the uncanny valley.

You will notice however, on this pose, that they re-use the same headshot over and over again as well.

And in case you're wondering, they have cyborg male models too:

What do you think of this tactic? Its advantage is consistency in showing off the clothes; after all, models are supposed to be mannequins. Plus if they were a little more overt about it, with a disclaimer that "models bodies are computer generated — do not try this at home" then maybe it would help to overcome the whole dysmorphia and eating disorder issue with both models and their followers.

After all, there was a time when fashion was usually sold by illustration.

Is this any different? I'd love to hear your opinions. (Well, those of most of you anyway.)


  1. Head, desk collision imminent.

    Will be repeating until everything goes a nice shade of grey.

    On a serious note, this really bugs me (I blogged about similar lies here:

    Surely it wouldn't be too hard to get a bunch of real people in to model the clothes? Would it?

    At least that would be a bit more... well... honest?

  2. At first, as a female, I was a little perturbed by this. More flawless, half-naked bodies for today's girls to live up to.

    But are they really THAT different than what we see in the media? The Victoria Secret Fashion Show took place not too long ago, and many of those models have far better bodies than what H&M is portraying.

    I get what they are doing marketing-wise. Keep it consistent. Save some $$. Make the clothes look better. It IS tough to shoot clothes on real bodies - dealing with wrinkles on the clothes, model fees, etc. Who knows, maybe they even secretly hoped to get a bit of buzz around this issue during the holiday shopping season.

    But at the end of the day, it's not like childhood obesity is on the decline, so really - are figures like this really to blame for poor self-image, or is it a combination of everything else?