Really fake on the catwalk – Why a model fears losing face due to AI – Culture

Really fake on the catwalk – Why a model fears losing face due to AI – Culture


A model makes a quick appearance at the Michael Costello show at Los Angeles Fashion Week. The stylist then publishes a content on Instagram in which the model’s face has obviously been retouched, presumably using artificial intelligence. Is she allowed to do this?

What happened? American model Shereen Wu accuses designer Michael Costello. After Wu appeared at a fashion show for Costello, she posted a photo of Wu’s appearance. The problem: You can no longer see her face, but rather a presumably computer-generated face. “Changing my face like that is completely disrespectful,” Wu says. Costello told Wu that he had not manipulated the image of her, but had received it from the photographer. The photographer contradicts this statement. One thing is clear: after Wu, Michael Costello also fears losing face.

What kind of technology is behind it? It is common practice in the fashion world for models to be supposedly beautified through image editing. Australian model Meaghan Kausman, for example, complained in 2014 that some kilos had been Photoshopped without asking. According to SRF artificial intelligence expert Damian Murezzan, the altered image of Wu could also have been processed with Photoshop and software that generates artificial faces. One thing is certain: faces generated by artificial intelligence are becoming more and more human-like.

Man with gelled hair and beard on a pink background


Fashion designer Michael Costello has been involved in other controversies. In 2021 there were allegations against him of sexual harassment and racism.

IMAGO Images / MediaPunch

Can laypeople also create AI manipulations? For a low resolution social media post, non-professionals could do it in no time. Technology is now very advanced. Not only still images, but also videos can be manipulated without much technical or financial effort, Murezzan says. It is still difficult to generate something from scratch with the help of artificial intelligence. But with today’s programs, editing an existing video is no longer that challenging. The Shereen Wu incident is by no means the cutting edge of current technology, but it could easily have happened a few years ago.

AI-generated image with four young models with different skin and hair colors


There are already models created entirely by artificial intelligence. They make advertising deals with companies just like their human competitors.

IMAGO Images / Wirestock

How should the Wu case be legally assessed? Wendla Savić is a model and lawyer. With a colleague you founded the first model trade union in German-speaking countries. According to Savić, Wu could be sued for injunctive relief and/or damages in Germany. “If images are manipulated beyond the usual extent (retouching, lighting changes) and the person is alienated, the model’s personal rights are compromised.” An agreement on usage rights makes sense not only in view of the use of artificial intelligence, but also due to the ever-increasing use of digital media. The use and right of modification should be expressly regulated there – before appearing.

What does this mean for the industry? Will there soon be only digital models? According to Savić, the use of artificial intelligence means that models will have to be present in person less and less often. Computer-generated body models are already used, on which real model heads are installed. “As a model, you will probably make your face available more often to create an avatar.” This would mean that real models would have to be booked less often. However, Savić is convinced: “The sensation of seeing how the fabric falls on a real person and feeling the effect of the model’s charisma: no computer can imitate that.”

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