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This is how a virtual model conquers the fashion industry

Nadja Beschetnikova
February 13, 2018

Today one could hardly be surprised with the concept of it-girls and influencers. That’s the core of social media. There are thousands of them on Instagram, feeding us with a daily portion of stylish advises stories from the fashion week’s afterparties and secrets of a beauty routine.
The community of the influencers is diverse, but they all have something in common. They are real.

Now we have an influencer, who exists only online. But this does not prevent her from making real deals in the fashion business. Lil Miquela, a computer-generated insta-star, collaborates with Pat McGrath, one of the most influential make-up artist. And that is rather controversial.

Pat McGrath is known for her passion for unique individuality and beauty, breaking away from traditional standards. Since McGrath looks for models that bring her personal inspiration, she picked the coolest women to represent her brand. Kim Kardashian West, Paloma Elsesser and Naomi Campbell are just some of the biggest #McGrathMuses. She created the mesmerizing looks on Bella and Gigi Hadid, the fashion industry's most in-demand sisters, for the British Vogue March 2018 issue. 

In the recent Instagram post, the make-up artist introduced her new partnership with Lil Miquela. A virtual avatar became a cover girl for the real make-up campaign.

That’s definitely a big marketing move for McGrath, but some fans were confused. Though McGrath provided, as usual, an explicit instruction how to gain the demonstrated look, it’s not clear how does this collaboration work? Many users left comments, claiming that the whole campaign is a fraud. One can’t even tell the quality of the product on this ‘fake’ skin. Given that Lil is not real, the makeup is apparently photoshopped.

And that’s disappointing for the fans used to the McGrath’s artistic approach. A choice of virtual model sins against her professional principles.

McGrath once said, "Flawless, luminous skin has always been a constant in my work. For years I've been using a custom mix of products to achieve different levels of luminosity from fresh baby skin to a supercharged power-glow.»

Collaboration with Lil Miquela is a clever publicity stunt to engage younger people. A focus on Millennials became a vibrant trend in fashion industry.
And Lil Miquela looks like one of them, with her looks combining Supreme and Chanel, bob, and freckled fresh face.

But the fact, that McGrath preferred a CGI model over real girls made Internet furious. Basically, generation of Matrix should make up mind to the invasion of avatars, breaking down the barrier between virtual and real. Miquela is not the first celebrity, shaped of pixels and bytes.

We already had virtual musicians, touring around the world like a computer-generated four-men band Gorillaz. And Marc Jacobs already has dressed Hatsune Miku, a virtual singer from Japan. By the way, the animated hologram collaborated with artists like Lady Gaga and Pharrell.

But is it too much, when we have now Sims character, promoting beauty products?

The war against unreal model measurements on world’s runways is hopefully nearly over, as some giant brands like Dior and Gucci banned super-skinny models from catwalks and advertising worldwide, while LVMH, a brand with the world's biggest market capitalization, stopped hiring girls under 16-year-old for adults collection. And here is a new battle. Are we competing against generated perfection now?

For Lil Miquela, called by The Washington Post the «Instagram’s biggest mystery», this is a first high-profile collaboration. On her Instagram, she shares looks, featuring branded clothes, but she stated that she has never been paid to wear these pieces.

«Instagram is everything! It’s all visual, which I think speaks to our culture. I’ve always been visual so whether it’s fashion or film/photography or a funny meme, Instagram can capture that. Plus you can share with your friends in such a personal way», said Miquela to Vogue.

In the interview the young influencer, who already has over 500 000 followers, revealed where she draws inspiration herself.

«I guess in general my fashion/makeup/life inspo starts with Rihanna. She’s that perfect balance of glam, edge, and weird that I hope to embody. The fact that people are inspired by my looks and send makeup or fan art of me is so incredible!»

On the shot, made for #McGrathMuse, Lil is also seen wearing a long-sleeved tee from the debut McGrath’s apparel collection. McGrath expanded her brand into clothing and launched the eight-piece collection, including as well hoodies and bombers. The outfits would definitely suit Lil.

“From the moment I launched GOLD 001 in Fall 2015, I’ve dreamt of creating clothing that captures the codes of LABS’ divinely disruptive cosmetic collections. I wanted one last surprise in 2017 for my fellow beauty (and fashion) junkies, an alluringly addictive assortment of MAJORmerch – the baddest bomber, the hautest hoodie and some of the sickest Ts EVER.” said McGrath.

So we can imagine the further development of this collaboration. But should we expect more brands to collaborate with the CGI personality soon? We all know the power of social media: whether we like it or not, but if something was declared trendy on Instagram or Twitter, there’ll be no escape.

If the campaign works for McGrath, other fashion houses will try their best to benefit from the new trend.

The situation with Lil Miquela is pretty funny. On the one hand, she shows us, how fake the internet basically is. And then she is an Instagram star of the rise. A person, who influences her followers with her looks, her tastes and even her public stance.
Lil leads a typical life of an it-girl, attending famous clubs and posting selfies. At the same time, she supports socially minded causes including transgender rights, feminism, gun control and many others.
There are still many conspiracy theories on Internet, whether Lil Miquela is real, fake, or somewhere in between. She popped up on Instagram back in 2016, and since then some people were rumored to be Miquela’s creator, but there’s still no confirmed information yet.

All we know about Miquela: she’s 19, half Brazilian, half Spanish and based in Los Angeles. Her real name is Miquela Sousa, she models and has even released music. Her debut single “Not Mine” reached number eight on Spotify Viral in August 2017.