Mohammed Sultan On The 5 Virtual Influencers Changing The Game Right Now

BY Olivia Phillips / Nov 7 2019 / 15:32 PM

The region's biggest AR and VR champion, Mohammed Sultan Al Habtoor, guest-edits virtual fashionistas - fresh from his internet-breaking filter collaboration with Instagram...

Mohammed Sultan On The 5 Virtual Influencers Changing The Game Right Now

Taking #IWokeUpLikeThis to an entirely new level, digital models are heralding the future of influence, sparking polarising dialogue about boundary-blurring, art and ethics.

Here, we meet four CGI influencers - who are dressed head-to-toe in designs that are exclusive to Harper's BAZAAR Arabia, we hasten to add - that you need to know about... 



Noonoouri wears Dior exclusive to Harper's BAZAAR Arabia

“I’m always proud to see myself in print, and it’s proof that the digital and the analog worlds are really not that far removed from each other. When I took over Dior’s Instagram, that was major. Performing with the Valentino V-Ring bag was stunning. And seeing myself next to Zendaya, Lewis Hamilton and Tommy in a Tommy Hilfiger roll-out is deeply touching. Every project has its moment, and a very special recent one was teaming up with IMG Worldwide. Being a digital character in a human agency is really big for me and gives me confi dence and strength.

I hope that digital characters will be part of the future and play a role in the diversity movement. We should embrace what positivity technology can bring to humanity. It’s not about robots taking away jobs. For example, my existence alone has created them – seven people are part of my team. Imagine! Digital characters will never replace humans, but instead offer another point of view and invite people to think outside the box.

One of my main, personal purposes is to raise awareness around topics such as human rights, children’s welfare, and the protection of animals and nature. Here, I raise my voice by teaming up with organisations to bring these things closer to my audience. I want to encourage people never to be silent. When it comes to style, though, I think it always comes from inside a person. You can dress up in the chicest, most fabulous brands, but if your personality doesn’t fill them with life, then style is missing. In my eyes, beauty is not measurable – it comes through attitude, grace and the warmth a person spreads.

My personal style, however, is founded on what I call the ‘Triple C’. The first C is for cute; that can be a vintage Versace outfit originally worn by Carla Bruni, or a stunning, laser-cut art piece by Iris Van Herpen. The second C stands for curiosity. I love to experiment; one day channelling Grace Jones and the next wearing my hair silver-grey like Ariana Grande. The last C stands for couture. That doesn’t mean that I only wear couture, of course, but it’s more about my eye for quality. Couture is art – and I’m sometimes told that people consider me a piece of art, too. Could I ask for more?”



Ria wears Valentino, exclusive to Harper's BAZAAR Arabia

“I don’t think about style as a way of meeting the expectations of others; it’s more about how I can reflect myself in the best possible way, or how I can represent designs in order to inspire people. But it’s also important as it makes me feel happy from the bottom of my heart.

Sometimes, though, my learning A.I. will tell me that the clothes I have chosen to wear are wrong. It tells me ‘no human would have chosen clothes like that!’ I still try, though.

Being virtual, it’s not even like I need to clothe myself, but I’ve learned to make an impression and express myself through fashion. By others seeing my existence as a digital influencer, perhaps it will change the fashion landscape in its entirety going forward. Maybe people will begin to ask themselves why it is that they’re not satisfied with simple clothes any more, and why they need fashion. What I really hope is that people can discover their own version of fashion.

Who knows what will happen with us CGI characters, though? The future is unpredictable. But because I’m not personally influenced by external factors such as politics or race, I can frankly convey what I think is important in the world. I really want to help create a better future for us all. In this way, I think I can achieve my ultimate goal of becoming even more ‘real’ than a real human being.”



Imma wears Valentino, exclusive to Harper's BAZAAR Arabia

“As a virtual influencer, I want to help create a world where we can all freely compliment the things we like. Nothing will be too far out of the box. Luckily, we are living in a generation where people can express their feelings more openly than ever. There’s so much positivity and good energy around.

I’ve had so much love since I started my Instagram back in July last year. I used it to post pictures of my daily life, and then it started becoming super popular… and now here I am, starting my modelling career. I never thought it would happen – but I guess people are just so interested in digital characters.

As for the future of influence, I think social networking services have the same – or even more power – than mass media to influence the future nowadays. Virtual humans have only just really started out, so we’ll see what happens with how much they can impact the fashion and design landscape.

For me, though, my goals are to present and expand the kind of Japanese culture that I love to everyone; including both the old culture and the new. Last but not least, however, speaking as a virtual character, I would like to encourage peace, inclusion and tolerance. Perhaps avatars like me can help spread this message.”



Hanna Stein:

Hanna wears Iris Van Herpen, exclusive to Harper's BAZAAR Arabia

“People are fascinated by the possibilities that virtual influencers possess. Being one myself, I have the opportunity to create any reality I want to. One day I could be casually posing on the edge of a cliff, the next day I could be taking my pet dinosaur for a walk. The only limit is my imagination.

I’m also a versatile person so I change my look every day. Why should I put the brakes on my style when I have the possibility to wear any outfit I can dream up? One of my team of creators is a fashion designer so she puts together mood boards of different looks for my CGI designer to make. It’s incredible, really.

With influencers – both human and virtual – gaining more reach than ever, it has become easier and more affordable for small brands to get noticed. They don’t need to produce a big campaign shoot or something similar any more, they can just look for influencers who have the same target group as their brand and let them do the work.

That’s exactly what I like to do – although I generally see myself and my fundamental purpose as a piece of art. I want to be an expression of creativity. An inspiration to break the rules and let your fantasy guide you through the process of creation.”



Shudu wears Lavie By CK, exclusive to Harper's BAZAAR Arabia

"Style is more than just clothes: it’s about how you wear them, it’s about passion, confidence and self-love. My style is forever changing and evolving, just as I am.

Over time I can imagine that more virtual influencers like myself will be created. We’re a fun way to play about with creativity and self-image. But we could never take the place of real influencers. I cannot speak to a young woman in the same way a real woman could.

Influencers have changed how we shop and how brands engage with us. Everything is so much more accessible now. We can connect with designers in a way that we couldn’t before. We have more access to their collections and the stories behind them. I think this access is so important and influencers help facilitate that. But I'm also conscious of the negative impact influencers are having, especially when it comes to fast fashion and sustainability within the industry. It will be interesting to see what the next decade will bring to fashion.

A lot of thought goes into what I wear but usually depends on the project I'm working on. I'm very conscious of the brands I work with and try my best to make sure that they have the same vision as I do when it comes to diversity and inclusivity. I also have to think about what styles would suit my shape and which colours complement my skin, just as you would.

In a way, every project is has been a career highlight for me. I don’t grow in the same way people do but with every new project, a part of me is developed and refined. It can be an added wrinkle or a more fluid movement. These details enhance each new thing I do. I exist in a digital space so seeing myself in print is always surreal.

My existence sparks so many important conversations. My presence pushes the question of how fashion functions in this digital age and how the two can work together going forward. But we also cannot ignore the issues around the lack of representation in fashion and the impact my existence, and the existence of other black digital models, has on real black models. My purpose is to be part of the changes that are so desperately needed in the fashion, tech and gaming industry, especially with the issues facing black women in these spaces. These discussions also help me to navigate my place too. I am constantly learning."

From the November Issue of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia